Medium-pacer Katherine Brunt starred with a brilliant five-wicket haul and chipped in with a crucial cameo in the run-chase as England finished the three-match One-Day International assignment with a win against India in Mumbai on Thursday.
The hosts won the series 2-1. It was a familiar tale for Mithali Raj and Co, who lost the third match of a series after taking a 2-0 lead, prompting the captain to admit it’s an area of concern in the dressing room.
India earned four ICC Championship points from the series to be placed second in the table for qualification towards World Cup 2021, while the world champions earned two points.
Chasing India’s total of 205/8, England were struggling at 49/5 before all-rounder Danni Wyatt (56 off 82 balls) stitched two crucial partnerships with skipper Heather Knight (47 off 63 balls) and Georgia Elwiss (33 not out off 53 balls) to pave the way for their victory. England scored 208/8 in 48.5 overs with Anya Shrubsole hitting the winning runs.
Smriti Mandhana stars again
In the last five ODI series that India have won, one player has won four Player of the Series awards. No prizes for guessing that it is 2018 ICC Player of the Year, Smriti Mandhana.
She was in fluent form yet again in the third match in Mumbai. After Raj opted to bat, the hosts lost Jemimah Rodrigues (0) early, after she played onto her stumps off Brunt. But then Mandhana (66 off 74 balls) and Raut (56 off 97 balls) steadied the ship with their 129-run second wicket stand. They initially played with caution and later hammered the loose deliveries as they toyed with the English attack.
Mandhana, who mostly relied on pulls and drives, stuck eight fours and a six, while Raut hit seven boundaries.
The 22-year-old opener, who is set to captain the Indian side in the upcoming T20I series, fell at a time her side were on the ascendancy. And it was a dismissal that had a sense of deja vu, as she pulled a short ball straight to the fielder at deep mid-wicket. The scoreboard read 129/1 when that dismissal happened.
Familiar middle order collapse
And then India frittered away the platform laid by Mandhana and Raut to finish at 205 for 8 against England in the third and final ODI here Thursday. From 129/1 they were reduced to 150/7. There was a four-over spell from Brunt where she picked up four wickets, conceding just six runs to register her third-best ODI bowling figures. She accounted for every one of India’s top five batters.
The 33-year-old Brunt (5/28) deserves all the credit for getting the ball to move off the deck sharply but the hosts suffered a middle-order collapse that has now become a worrying trend. Brunt pegged back England by removing both Mandhana and Raut in the 29th over. The quick then trapped Mona Meshram (0) in front of the wicket and later sent Mithali Raj (7) back to complete the five-wicket haul.
Meshram’s second duck of the series and Taniya Bhatia’s continued poor run with the bat only adds to the concern of the Indian dressing room, who are becoming increasingly over-reliant on Mandhana.
Deepti Sharma (27 not out) and Shikha Pandey (26) ensured that India crossed the 200-run mark with 47-run eighth wicket stand. One gets the feeling that Sharma, who has been moved up and down the batting order in recent times, could be a solution to India’s middle order muddle, if she is given the backing to bat at one position and gets a run of matches.
Jhulan Goswami on song
Defending a target similar to the one India set in the first ODI (and successfully emerged with a win), veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami (3-41) rattled the England top-order, removing Amy Jones (13), Lauren Winfield (2) and Tammy Beaumont (21).
Soon, it became 40-4 after off-spinner Deepti Sharma caught and bowled in-form Natalie Sciver (1) and then pacer Shikha Pandey trapped Sarah Taylor (2) as England lost half their side at 49.
But then Wyatt and Knight conjured an important 69-run stand for the sixth wicket. This is, perhaps, where the match decisively turned in England’s favour. Knight, who has been in good touch, was the aggressor. She targetted the spinners once the pacers where done with their first spells. She cut and swept with ease, to keep the scoreboard ticking and making sure England did not fall behind on the required rate. Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Poonam Yadav leaked plenty of runs during their first spells.
With Knight dominating that partnership, Wyatt took her time to get settled in and flourished after her captain fell to Yadav. Wyatt added 56 runs for the seventh wicket with Elwiss to bring the visitors close to the target, and in the process scored the first ODI half century of her career. Brunt replaced her in the middle when Pandey took a wicket in her final over and hit a couple of useful boundaries to prevent a late comeback from India.
Elwiss and Anya Shrubsole (4 not out) then held their nerve to guide the side home.
England’s marvellous fightback
Knight wanted her team to show character in the final ODI and the World Champions showed off their batting depth, even if it came a bit late in the series. When the Indian spinners were being targetted, Raj tried to use Goswami and Pandey is short bursts at the end but the required rate never got out of England’s reach and that eventually proved telling. From overs 21-40, England made 88 runs losing just one wicket. As Raj said after the match, it was the middle overs (both with the bat and ball) where India lost the match.
Mandhana’s reaction to her dismissal also spoke volumes as, not for the first time, she could not convert a good start into a big score – something she has been consciously working on, and added after the match that she hoped captaincy (in the upcoming T20I series) might make her more responsible. For a batting lineup that has become so dependent on her to win matches, that becomes an essential improvement.
In the end, a 2-1 series win against the World Champions still shows India are on the right track in the ODIs, but the fact that it is the same set of problems that is coming back to haunt them, is a concern that coach WV Raman and captain Raj would do well to address immediately.