The Indian team thrashed arch-rivals Pakistan by 107 runs to begin their campaign in the ICC Women’s World Cup on a rousing note at Mount Maunganui in New Zealand on Sunday, the much-anticipated face-off ending in a no contest.
Opting to bat after the coin landed in India’s favour, in-form opener Smriti Mandhana, Sneh Rana and Pooja Vastrakar struck useful half-centuries to help their team recover from an early wobble and post 244 for seven at the Bay Oval.
Chasing a tricky target of 245, the Pakistan team fell way short of the mark and was all out for 137 in 43 overs, losing its 11th straight game against neighbours India in the 50-over format.
Left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad did the star turn with the ball, returning with excellent figures of 4/31 after her full quota of 10 overs. Seasoned pacer Jhulan Goswami bowled very well to finish the game with impressive figures of 2/29, while there were also two wickets for Rana (2/27), capping off her fine all-round show.
To start with however, the Indians found themselves under pressure after opener Shafali Verma was dismissed for a duck in the third over.
A 92-run stand between Mandhana (52 off 75 balls) and Deepti Sharma (40 off 57) helped steady the ship.
However, Pakistan came back strongly by claiming a flurry of wickets, including the scalps of skipper Mithali Raj (9) and her deputy Haramanpreet Kaur (5).
It wasn’t a good outing for Raj with the willow but, by turning out in the India jersey on Sunday, the veteran 39-year-old became only the third cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar and Javed Miandad to appear in six World Cups and the first woman to achieve the feat.
Raj, though, would take her cheap dismissal in her stride as her team achieved the result it sought.
After the early dismissal of Shafali, the duo of Mandhana and Deepti got together to first steady the innings and then build a foundation for Rana and Vastrakar to take their team closer to 250.
Rana (53 not out) and Vastrakar (67) shared a crucial 122-run partnership—the highest for the seventh wicket in ICC Women’s World Cups—to help boost the India total.
From the Pakistan point of view, the stand between Rana and Vastrakar hit them hard as they were hoping to restrict India after reducing them to 114 for six at one point.
Mandhana and Deepti were dismissed within a few overs of each other. Deepti missed a sweep and was bowled by Nashra Sundhu for 40, and Mandhana followed suit 13 balls later, giving a return catch to Anam Amin.