Wellington: Smriti Mandhana (58, 34b, 7×4, 3×6) continued with her great form with a record-smashing half century but the Indian women’s cricket team failed to make it count, going down by 23 runs in the opening T20 International against New Zealand here Wednesday.
Mandhana held the record for the fastest fifty by an Indian before the match and she bettered it by a ball during her 58-run knock at the WestPac Stadium. The 22-year-old reached the 50-mark off 24 deliveries.
However, New Zealand pacer Lea Tahuhu (3/20) played a decisive role with the ball to derail India’s pursuit of a 160-run target which was going smoothly till the time Mandhana was at the crease. India eventually folded for 136 in 19.1 overs.
Leg-spinner Amelia Kerr (2/28) clinched the crucial wickets of Mandhana and Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur to wreck the visitors’ chances. Off-spinner Leigh Kasperek also picked up a couple of wickets.
“Obviously we didn’t get the start we wanted but it was pretty good to come back and win. It’s just about keeping calm,” said Tahuhu, who was adjudged player of the match for her performance.
Harmanpreet, on the other hand, blamed India’s loss on a poor batting effort, especially in the last 10 overs. “I think bowlers did really well as we expected. We didn’t bat well in the last 10 overs. That is only area where we are always struggling,” she pointed out.
Veteran Mithali Raj, who captains the Indian ODI side, was dropped from the match. “We are looking to give chances to youngsters; that is the only reason,” said Harmanpreet when asked about Mithali’s absence from the line-up.
The next game of the series is scheduled to be played Friday in Auckland.
Mandhana and Jemiamah Rodrigues (39, 33b, 6×4) combined for a 102-run second-wicket stand that should have been a solid foundation for the rest of the line-up. But India collapsed in the face of an inspired performance by Lahuhu.
Earlier, Kiwi opening batswoman Sophie Devine (62, 48b, 6×4, 2×6) played an enterprising innings to take New Zealand women to a challenging 159 for four from 20 overs after being put into bat. She and captain Amy Satterthwaite (33 off 27 balls) shared a 69-run stand for the third wicket to steer New Zealand out of trouble after a stuttering start.
Brief scores: New Zealand women 159 for four (Sophie Devine 62) beat India women 136 in 19.1 overs (Smriti Mandhana 58, Lea Tahuhu 3/20) by 23 runs.