India achieved their primary objective of making the semifinals of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, but they didn’t manage to tick all the required boxes and as a result, wouldn’t be going into the semifinals with the confidence of all bases covered.
The rain and strong gusts forced the umpires to take the players off the field, with Ireland 54/2 in 8.2 overs in pursuit of 156. The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) par score was 59 at that stage, and as the match was subsequently abandoned, India emerged victorious by five runs. The underdogs, who had lost their previous three games in the competition, needed a further 102 runs in 70 balls. India would still have been favourites, but may have had to endure some anxious moments if the partnership between Gaby Lewis and skipper Laura Delany continued for a few more overs.
That the Indians had the upper hand was due to the disparity in fielding. If the Irish were a bit more agile and athletic on the field, it’s not inconceivable that they might have had their noses in front when the contest came to a premature end.
𝙄𝙉𝙏𝙊 𝙏𝙃𝙀 𝙎𝙀𝙈𝙄𝙎! 🙌 🙌#TeamIndia have marched into the Semi Final of the #T20WorldCup 👏 👏
Well Done! 👍 👍 pic.twitter.com/mEbLtYhSm5
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) February 20, 2023
The difference between the two teams came to the fore on the first ball of the chase itself. Amy Hunter guided Renuka Thakur’s delivery just past the circle on the off side. There was an easy single on offer, but the two openers decided on a risky second.
Jemimah Rodrigues sprinted towards the ball, had a quick pick-up and had a decent throw towards wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh. The slight hesitation between Hunter and her batting partner Gaby Lewis, meant the former was well short of the crease when the bails were dislodged.
The Indian fielding contributed an early wicket, and Thakur bowled Orla Prendergast to reduce Ireland to 1 for 2 in the first over itself.
@mandhana_smriti‘s scintillating innings of 87 off 56 balls helped #TeamIndia book their place in the #WomensT20WorldCup semi-finals! Congratulations to @BCCIWomen on an excellent performance! #INDWvsIREW pic.twitter.com/vW12NXCXrX
— Jay Shah (@JayShah) February 20, 2023
On the other hand, the Irish fielders were so sloppy that Smriti Mandhana wouldn’t have believed her luck. The left-hander was dropped on more than one occasion, while the leaden-footed Irish girls failed to reach her various mishits in time. The left-handed opener’s 87 off 56 balls was the fulcrum of India’s batting effort of 155/6 as almost all the other batters struggled to score at a run a ball. It was only due to a vital cameo by Jemimah at the end, after designated finisher Richa got out without troubling the scorers, which took India to their eventual score. She improvised to hit two boundaries in the 20th over which, in hindsight, could have been the difference between an Indian win and a major upset.
Batting first after winning the toss, India chose a sedate start to get some batting practice for the out-of-nick Shefali Verma, but the youngster and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur failed to get going, putting the whole onus of getting a competitive total on Smriti. The strong gusts of wind, such a feature of St George’s Park, became a key factor in the match. The Irish bowlers focused on not giving any pace on the ball for the Indian batters to use, and while it frustrated Shefali, Smriti very smartly hit with the wind to reach or clear the boundary, with ample help from the Irish fielders.
Her hitting straight down the ground and wide of long-on is among the best in the business, and after the five over mark the left-hander decided to take matters into her own hands.
India were coming into the game on the back of an 11-run loss to England, and if the latter avoid a defeat in their last league fixture against Pakistan, Harmanpreet & Co will face the daunting prospect of facing Australia in the semifinal.
Vice-captain @mandhana_smriti led the charge with the bat & was #TeamIndia‘s top performer from the first innings of the #INDvIRE #T20WorldCup clash 👍 👍
A summary of her knock 🔽 pic.twitter.com/j5yvQNmGZi
— BCCI Women (@BCCIWomen) February 20, 2023
With Shefali and the skipper being uncharacteristically subdued against the Irish, it remains to be seen how they fare against the much stronger Australian bowling unit, although they can be expected to raise their game on the big occasion.
Thakur has been the leader of the Indian bowling attack, but the normally-reliable spin department featuring Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad has not been at its best of late.
Australia, the defending champions have been the most dominant side in the competition and the women’s game in general over the last several years. India have played them a lot in recent times, have run them close (the 2022 Commonwealth games final) and last T20 World Cup final and even beaten them on the odd occasion. But on Monday’s evidence, they would need a major update on their performance.
Brief scores: India 155/6 in 20 overs (Mandhana 87, Delany 3/33, Prendergast 2/22) bt Ireland 54/2 in 8.2 overs (Lewis 32 n,o, Renuka 1-10) by five runs (DLS method)