Smriti Mandhana continued her brilliant run in one-day internationals with an unbeaten 90 in the second match of the series against New Zealand as India took an unbeatable 2-0 lead in Mount Maunganui on Tuesday.
Mandhana followed up her century in the first match of the series with another sublime knock, ably supported by captain Mithali Raj who remained unbeaten on 63* as India romped to an eight-wicket win against White Ferns. They had won the first ODI in Napier by nine wickets.
The win was set up by another professional bowling performance, this time led by veteran Jhulan Goswami who picked up three wickets for 23 runs.
For New Zealand, captain Amy Satterthwaite was the lone bright spot, top-scoring with 71.
Having won the toss, Raj opted to bowl first on a pitch that was being used for the third time in four days — the same track was used for the second and third ODIs between the men’s teams as well. India fielded an unchanged XI while New Zealand brought in Anna Peterson to shore up their spin bowling attack.
Goswami, accurate as ever to start with, dismissed the dangerous Suzie Bates in the very first over by getting her to edge one behind to the keeper. Taniya Bhatia took a simple catch as the hosts lost a wicket before they could score a run.
The good start became better for India as Sophie Devine was soon back in the pavilion as well and NZ lost both their openers in quick succession. Shikha Pandey trapped Devine in front, which was given not out despite looking plumb. But the decision was reversed as Decision Review System came to India’s help.
The first powerplay belonged to the Indian bowlers as NZ could manage only 24/2 with their best batters back in the pavilion. From there on, the spinners came to the fore, with Ekta Bisht (2/14) leading the way, dismissing Lauren Down in the middle of a frugal first spell where she recorded figures of 1/9 from five overs.
On a used pitch, the spinners were always going to be more dangerous but Satterthwaite found a way to negotiate their threat by employing the sweep shot to good effect. She built a 58-run partnership with Leigh Kasperek for the sixth wicket before Poonam Yadav struck to end the stand.
It was a procession from there on as Goswami returned to pick up two more wickets, while Deepti Sharma also chipped in with two wickets at the end.
The chase of 162 was never going to trouble the Indian batting line-up but they were off to a shaky start with Jemimah Rodrigues (0) and Deepti Sharma (8) dismissed in the first five overs. But that was all the joy White Ferns were going to taste with Raj joining Mandhana and ensuring India faced no further hiccups.
The Indian captain took her time to settle in (she was batting on 15 off 55 balls at one point) but Mandhana kept the scoreboard ticking at the other end, her strike rate hardly dropping below 90. Raj grew in confidence as the match went on and, in fact, hit the first six of the match before bringing up her 52nd ODI fifty. Mandhana broke free after her half century as well.
In the end, it was the Indian captain who finished off the match with a six over long on.
“It feels great but I think our bowlers deserved the player of the match award more than me. I will give it away to our bowlers, they did a great job to restrict New Zealand on a good wicket,” Mandhana said in the post-match presentation.
The 22-year-old Mandhana has been in excellent form in recent times and Tuesday’s half century was her eighth in the last 10 ODI innings. On Tuesday, she took just 82 deliveries for her unbeaten knock of 90. Raj, on the other hand, faced 111 deliveries in her sedate knock 63. But, she was a perfect counterfoil to the aggressive Mandhana.
“I am happy with the way the team is shaping up. I have always enjoyed batting in challenging conditions. It wasn’t easy, it required patience here. Smriti is in good form and somebody had to give her support,” Raj said.
India now move on to 18 points from 11 matches in the ICC Women’s Championships standing.
The final ODI is in Hamilton on Friday.