CWG 2022, INDW vs AUSW: Renuka Singh's spell in vain; Australia pulls off 3-wicket win
The Indian women's cricket team did not have a great start to the Commonwealth Games 2022. It lost to Australia by three wickets despite an excellent bowling spell from Renuka Singh.
Indian women pacer Renuka Singh's dream spell was not good enough as Australia returned from defeat to pull off a thrilling three-wicket win in the 2022 Commonwealth Games Group A opening clash at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Friday. India set a target of 155, which should have been a brief chase for the Australians. However, Renuka, playing only her seventh Twenty20 International (T20I), broke the backbone of Australian batting, claiming four for 18. With Australia struggling at 49 for 5, India should have comfortably got the job done. Yet, Ashleigh Gardner (52 not out off 35 balls) changed the game in a couple of game-changing stands of 51 and 47 with Grace Harris (37) and Alana King (18*), respectively.
Eventually, Australia overcame the target easily, proving that the reigning T20I and One-Day International (ODI) world champion can win in any given situation. Gardner's countering attack innings would be remembered as she played with the tailenders to keep the runs coming. The Powerplay overs were dominated by Renuka, who produced a thoughtful spell of pace bowling. She removed the detrimental Alyssa Healy in the opening over to make the game enjoyable before dismissing Beth Mooney and Australian skipper Meg Lanning.
A sharp inswinger led to the collapse of the assertive Tahlia McGrath, making it 34/4, with India all over its chosen opponent. However, India lost its acceleration as its premier weapon -- left-arm spin twins Radha Yadav (0/42) and Rajeshwari Gayakwad (0/24) gave away 66 in six overs.
Debutant slow medium-pacer Meghna Singh was also pedestrian at the back when Gardner and King sent her down for a leather hunt. Earlier, Shafali Verma (48) and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (52) were involved in a stroked-filled innings that entertained the crowd at Edgbaston. However, the other batters were not so impressive.
Smriti Mandhana faced pacer Darcie Brown on the first ball of the competition, which marked the beginning of a climacteric point in women's cricket, with the game eyeing the Olympics via the CWG route. However, the Harmanpreet-led side lost its way in the final five overs, with five wickets falling for 39. Smriti played some sleek shots during her short stay before Shafali and Harmanpreet took charge.
With some luck favouring, Shafali smashed Darcie for three fours successively in the 10th over to rung the alarm bells for Australia. Harmanpreet began with a paddle sweep against spinner Ashleigh Gardner and targeted the spinners. Her only six of the innings came in the 20th when she stepped out to ship Jess Jonassen long before a sweep brought her seventh 50 in T20Is. India's chances of putting up a formidable total were hurt by a lack of support from the other end, with the lower middle-order scarcely contributing.
(With inputs from PTI)