Women's Cricket

Record-breaking Mithali Raj finds form, leads India to a series win against the World Champions

Indian women clinched the series 2-1 against England with a fine win in the decider.

The massive defeat handed out by England in the second game seemed distant as skipper Mithali Raj led from the front with an unbeaten 74 in India’s comfortable win in Nagpur on Thursday. Women in blue outclassed England by eight wickets in the third and final One Day International and clinched the series 2-1.

After India spinners restricted England to a modest 201/9, opener Smriti Mandhana (53*), Mithali and Deepti Sharma (54*) ensured that the hosts crossed the line with 4.4 overs to spare.

India had won the first match by one wicket while England had levelled the series after they defeated the hosts by eight wickets in the second game. But India eves today dished out a clinical performance with both the bat and ball.

For England, wicket-keeper Amy Jones (94) top scored but she failed to find partners. Indian spinners wreaked havoc on English batters, as they shared six wickets, while veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami (2-39) too chipped in.

Off-spinner Deepti Sharma (2-35), left-arm orthodox bowler Rajeshwari Gayakwad (2-32) and leg spinner Poonam Yadav (2-47) were among the wickets. Skipper Heather Knight chipped in with 36 runs, but it was Jones, with seven fours and a six in her knock, who ensured that England went beyond the 200-run mark.

While chasing, India’s changed game plan back-fired. Jemimah Rodrigues, returning to the team after missing out during the first two games, was dismissed in the first over. Veda Krishnamurthy, promoted to No 3, could not make the most of the opportunity as well. It was a start that could have set the alarm bells ringing in the dressing room which has been short of runs in the home season, except for the supremely consistent Mandhana.

While Mandhana gave a brisk start as always, she was complemented perfectly by Raj. In a change from losing wickets in a cluster, Raj steadied the ship and after playing out a few dot balls, started driving the ball like she does when in good touch. The partnership ensured there were no middle order hiccups for India.

After the left-handed Mandhana was retired hurt, seemingly exhausted by the heat, Deepti Sharma joined the captain and the two took India home. In the end, Raj was the cynosure of eyes at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium as she punished English bowlers, hitting nine boundaries. Enroute her unbeaten knock, Raj added another feather to her decorated cap, scoring her 50th ODI century and becoming the batter with the most 50-plus scores to her name in women’s ODI history.

Sharma, who was named player of the match for her all-round show, finished the match in style with a six. Mandhana was named player of the series.

After losing the T20 tri-series, which also involved Australia apart from England, and the ODI series to the Southern Stars, India finally found the winning momentum against England. This series might not have been part of the ICC Women’s Championship but a win against the world champions would do this Indian team a world of good.

Brief Scores:

England 201/9 in 50 overs (Amy Jones 94, Heather Knight 36, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2/32) lost to India 202/2 in 45.2 overs (Mithali Raj 74*, Deepti Sharma 54 not out, Anya Shrubsole 2/37) by 8 wickets.

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