A fiery cameo from Shafali Verma, followed by an all-round bowling effort led India to an 18-run victory over Bangladesh in the sixth match of the 2020 Women's T20 World Cup at the WACA on Monday (February 24). With four points to their name, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side are now just one step away from that semi-final spot.
Asked to bat, there was a yet another middle-order collapse but a fiery cameo from Shafali (17-ball 39) and a sedate knock from Jemimah Rodrigues (37-ball 34) propelled India to a fighting total of 142 for 6. In response, none of the Bangladeshi batsmen could come up with something substantial and were restricted to 124 for 8 in their 20 overs.
With ace left-handed opener Smriti Mandhana ruled out due to a viral fever, Taniya Bhatia was sent out to open the innings along with Shafali. The latter made her intentions clear in the very first over when she slammed Jahanara Alam over extra covers. Rather than playing second fiddle, Bhatia too tried to take on the Bangladeshi bowlers but ended up getting stumped off Salma Khatun.
Shafali however was unfazed by her partner's departure and kept the attack going. Bangladesh bowlers kept feeding her full-length deliveries and Shafali pounced on every one of them. The 16-year-old targetted the straight boundary and tonked Jahanara for 17 runs in the third over. The right-hander got India past the 50-run mark with a six but couldn't carry on as she mistimed a lofted drive in the same over and was caught at long-off, but only after smashing four maximums and two fours.
Despite losing the key scalp, Rodrigues and Harmanpreet kept finding boundaries and added 25 runs for the third wicket. Skipper Harmanpreet (8) however once again threw her wicket away when she cut Panna's half-tracker straight into the hands of the backward point fielder. The burden once again fell on the potential shoulders of Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma, and it was these two who had pulled India out of the bog in the tournament opener against Australia.
Rodrigues in particular was going about her business very smartly, focusing more on strike rotation. Rumana Ahmed and Fahima Khatun kept the duo quiet for three overs and the pressure of not scoring at a good pace led to Rodrigues getting run out in the 14th over. Coming in at No. 5, Richa Ghosh - Mandhana's replacement - got a couple of wide deliveries from legspinner Khatun and got her innings going with back-to-back boundaries.
India needed quick runs but both Richa (14) and Deepti (11) perished in the 17th over, halting India's charge. Having managed just 36 in the last seven overs, it was all up to Veda Krishnamurthy (11-ball 20*) to make the most of the last three overs and get India closer to that 150-run mark. The Bangladesh captain gave Indian batswomen no pace but Veda hammered four boundaries in the last three overs to ensure her team got to a competitive total.
In reply, Shamima Sultana (3) fell to Shikha Pandey (2 for 14) early in the innings but Murshida Khatun (26-ball 30) managed three boundaries in the next over and ensured Bangladesh were operating close to six runs per over. Both Shikha and Rajeshwari Gayakwad kept the pressure on the Bangladeshi batswomen and the required run-rate soon went over 8. It was Arundhati Reddy (2 for 33) who reaped the reward as Murshida tried to go after her but ended up ballooning one towards cover where Richa grabbed a simple catch.
Sanjida Islam and Fargana Hoque didn't contribute much and with 58 needed off six overs, it was up to Nigar Sultana and Fahima Khatun to come up with something special. Bangladesh's highest run-scorer since 2019, Nigar mixed caution with aggression and was very smart with her approach. The wicketkeeping-batter scored 35 before falling to Gayakwad in the 17th over.
Poonam, who took four wickets against Australia, was at it again with her slow legspin, finishing with figures of 3 for 18. Bangladesh required 33 from the last two overs and Rumana smacked two fours in the penultimate over to bring the equation down to 22 off 6, which ended up being way too many against Shikha.