Poonam Yadav claimed 4 for 19 as India beat defending champions Australia by 17 runs to get their 2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup campaign off to a phenomenal start at the Sydney Showground Stadium on Friday (February 21).
Asked to bat, Shafali Verma's (15-ball 29) rapid cameo at the top, followed by Deepti Sharma's sedate 46-ball 49* propelled India to a respectable total of 132/4 in their 20 overs. In response, Alyssa Healy (35-ball 51) got Australia off to a superb start before legspinner Poonam came into the attack and dismantled Australia. She got good support from Shikha Pandey (3 for 14) who cleaned up the tail as Australia were bundled out for 115 in 19.5 overs.
With the surface slightly being on the slower side, Australian captain Meg Lanning started with Molly Strano and the offspinner did manage to keep both Shafali and Smriti Mandhana quiet. The hosts could have got rid of Mandhana only in the second over if Strano had held on to a catch at mid-wicket, and the stylish left-handed opener added insult to injury by creaming Ellyse Perry for back-to-back boundaries in the same over.
It was in the third over when Shafali came to her own as the 16-year-old slammed Strano for couple of boundaries, including a maximum over covers. The right-hander then crafted Megan Schutt for four fours in the fourth over as India raced to 40 for no loss. Australian captain had no other option but to bring her ace spinner Jess Jonassen into the attack and the left-arm tweaker caught Mandhana plumb in front for a 11-ball 10.
Before the dust had settled, Perry got the major breakthrough by having Shafali caught at mid-wicket. She smashed five fours and a six in her 15-ball 29 before mistiming a pull straight into the hands of the fielder. Having lost both of their openers, India needed their skipper Harmanpreet Kaur to take the innings forward but the 30-year-old went for a needless and brainless heave off the bowling of Jonassen in the very next over and ended up getting stumped for 2.
Having lost three wickets in the space of six runs, Rodrigues was joined by Deepti and the two kept the scoreboard ticking with ones and twos. The duo batted smartly and ensured there was no collapse as such. The No. 3 batter, Rodrigues didn’t score a single boundary in her 33-ball 26 but batted according to the demands of the situation. The two added 53 for the fourth wicket before Delissa Kimmince pinned Rodrigues right in front of the stumps.
India were in desperate need of some quick runs and Deepti managed 15 off the 17th over but Australian bowlers kept it tight in the last three overs and conceded only 17, with Jonassen finishing with figures of 2 for 24.
Coming into this World T20 with scores of 4, 1, 0, 1 and 9 in her last five T20I innings, Healy announced her arrival by hitting left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad for two boundaries in the second over. Both Healy and in-form Beth Mooney were moving along nicely before right-arm seamer Shikha got the latter caught at backward point for 6.
However Healy, who was last edition's player of the tournament, kept the attack going, striking Arundhati Reddy for three boundaries in her first over. Lanning (5) couldn't contribute much but Healy brought up her fifty by hammering Poonam over long-on for a six. The legspinner however got her revenge on the very next delivery as Healy hit one straight to Poonam and the 28-year-old grabbed it with both hands.
Healy's departure gave India a chance to make a comeback in this encounter and Poonam had Rachael Haynes (6) stumped and Perry bowled off consecutive deliveries. She could have taken a hat-trick if Taniya Bhatia wouldn't have dropped Jonassen. The Australian batters looked clueless against Poonam, who didn't play the tri-series because of a finger injury, and the leggie got her fourth wicket in the form of Jonassen. While Poonam was doing her thing, Bhatia was simply outstanding behind the stumps, barring that one drop chance.
Australia kept losing wickets but Ashleigh Gardner (36-ball 34) kept them in the game till the very end, but the task was almost improbable. Australia needed 21 runs in the final over but Shikha dismissed Gardner off the second delivery to seal the deal.