Smriti dazzles, India falter

Smriti dazzles, India falter

Smriti Mandhana remained an unstoppable juggernaut 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 on 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 faced 34 balls in all but reached the 50-mark off 24 deliveries.

However, New Zealand pacer Lea Tahuhu played a decisive role with three scalps off her four overs 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 up 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.

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 the only area where we are always struggling,” she pointed out.

The next game of the series is scheduled to be held in Auckland on Friday.

Mandhana and Jemiamah Rodrigues (39 off 33 balls) 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. From 101/1, the visiting team was down to 117/6 in a matter of five overs that turned the match on its head.

Harmanpreet (17 off 15 balls) played out a small cameo, including a massive six off Kerr, but couldn’t steer the team home, failing to find any support at the other end.

Brief scores: New Zealand: 159/4 in 20 overs (Sophie Devine 62, Amy Satterthwaite 33, Katey Martin 27 n.o.) bt India: 136 all out in 19.1 overs (Smriti Mandhana 58, Jemimah Rodrigues 39; Lea Tahuhu 3-20, Leigh Kasperek 2-25, Amelia Kerr 2-2).