Skipper Mithali Raj’s second successive fifty was not enough for India as England registered a five-wicket win over India in Taunton on Wednesday and took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Sophie Dunkley produced a fighting half-century after Kate Cross’ five-wicket haul restricted India to yet another below par score, even if there were improvements seen from the display in Bristol where the visitors were thoroughly outplayed in all departments.
Invited to bat, India could manage only 221 in the stipulated 50 overs, build largely around Mithali’s 92-ball 59 and opener Shafali Verma’s 55-ball 44.
Defending 222 , the Indian bowlers had the hosts under the pump helped by the veterans Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey. England batters couldn’t capitalise on their starts to lose five wickets for 133 in 28.5 overs but Dunkley (73 not out) and Katherine Brunt (33 not out) produced a 92-run partnership for the unconquered sixth wicket to take the team home with 15 balls to spare.
Lauren Winfield Hill (42) and Amy Ellen Jones (28) were the other notable contributors for England in the run chase.
Mithali did not take the field during the England run chase as she developed pain in her neck and her deputy Harmanpreet Kaur led the visiting team. Radha Yadav was the substitute fielder for the regular skipper.
Earlier, the 38-year-old, who had scored a fighting 72 in the first ODI, once again top-scored with an innings which was studded with six boundaries but she didn’t get any support from the other end as Cross kept chipping away at the wickets.
Put in to bat, Smriti Mandhana (22) and Shafali Verma (44) gave India a good start, adding 56 runs in 11.5 overs before the former played one on to her stumps to become the first victim of Cross.
Jemimah Rodrigues (8), who replaced Punam Raut in the playing XI, fell soon after as Cross induced a leading edge from the batter to leave India at 76 for two in 16 overs. Verma, who scored seven fours in her 55-ball innings, was then flummoxed by Sophie Ecclestone with wicketkeeper Amy Ellen Jones producing a sharp stumping in the next over.
Mithali and vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur then steadied the innings, sharing 68 runs off 103 balls to take India across the 100-run mark. However, Cross once again returned to break the partnership, this time getting rid of Harmanpreet, who ended up getting a leading edge – similar to Rodrigues – and was easily pouched by the bowler.
New batter Deepti Sharma got one boundary but paid the price for a mistimed shot as she was caught by Sophie Dunkley in the deep with Cross being the beneficiary again. Sneh Rana, one of the star performers of the one-off Test, too fell in similar fashion with her leading edge being caught by Heather Knight after a bit of a juggle as Cross claimed her fifth.
Taniya Bhatia then edged one to the keeper, while Shikha Pandey too was caught behind as Indian women slumped to 181 for 8 in 44 overs.
Mithali was then run out while trying to steal a second run, falling 11 short of the record for most international runs. Jhulan Goswami and Poonam yadav then stitched 29 runs off 22 balls to swell the Indian total.
- When Mithali spoke after the first ODI, it was clear that changes were going to be made to the XI. Punam Raut, the most in-form batter coming into the series for India, is a slow starter and more in the anchor mould than someone who can set the tempo, so it was understandable that India gave a chance to Jemimah Rodrigues, a busy scorer. Ekta Bisht, as good as she has been for India, looked very rusty in Bristol and the English batters picked her off behind square at will and Sneh Rana was an obvious replacement because she added depth to the batting as well. But one has to wonder what the constant chopping and changing of her place in the XI will mean for a young, promising allrounder like Pooja Vastrakar. As such, she has had bad luck with injuries and when she does get games for India, it is never on a consistent basis. Beyond Jhulan Goswami, there is Shikha Pandey... and then what? The management needs a better plan in place for the seamers to develop.
- India clearly have a dot-ball problem in ODIs, with more than 30 overs worth of it in both matches so far. There was a bit more intent to run better between the wickets in this match, but the team is still heavily dependent on boundaries. The England chase was once again a study in contrast as Dunkley showed sensational match awareness to score at a good rate by playing the field.
- Once again, there were debates about Mithali Raj’s strike rate but she continued to be the glue holding the batting lineup together. It is one thing to question how quickly she scores her runs when there are others in the team scoring freely, and she is perhaps holding the team back. But once again, she was left to wage a lone battle as the rest of the batting unit collapsed when she made her 64th fifty-plus score in ODIs. The consistency or lack thereof from those around her is a more pressing concern for India at the moment than her strike rate. For a batter of her capabilities, and in her own words the ability to adapt to situations, there are occasions where she could find an extra gear and bat with a bit more freedom than be bogged down by the responsibilities. But the collapses happen with far too much regularity around her for that to be the case, as we saw in Taunton.
- Poonam Yadav made a comeback into the XI after four ODIs without a wicket in the home series against South Africa. There was a sense that her style of bowling — not giving any pace to the opponents — was getting found out. It was not quite a successful return to the XI for her as India lost and she went for plenty more runs than she would have liked (2/63 in 10 overs), but at the very least she was back in wicket-taking ways. Speaking after the match, she said: “I have worked on my field placements and just my general approach. Players were playing me off the back foot, what matters is the pace and how the wicket is acting. I worked on varying my pace and I had time between these two series to work that out. For any bowler, it matters to get among the wickets and contribute to the team and complete the spell. I was a little expensive today, I could have done better.”
- The more important point made by Yadav in the press conference was the improved body language in the field by India, and that played a part in helping them make a match out of a low total. Goswami’s first spell was everything we have come to admire about her and she produced a peach to dismiss the world No 1 in ODIs Tammy Beaumont. The fielding was much improved, substitute Radha Yadav playing a big part in that as well as the returning Rodrigues. It was another aspect, along with a better opening partnership, that India managed to improve from Bristol. But there is still plenty left to be done.
With PTI inputs
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