On this day, Harmanpreet Kaur played one of the most important innings in the history of women's cricket. Her knock of 171* against Australia in the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup played a huge role in changing the face of women's cricket in India. And now, it's' impossible to talk about Harmanpreet without mentioning 'that knock' in Derby against a formidable Australian side.
The right-handed dasher slammed 20 fours and seven maximums during her stay in the middle and helped India defeat the Meg Lanning-side by 36 runs and confirm their place in the finals of the showpiece event. Mithali Raj and Co. went down in a thrilling finale against England at Lord's but their journey was enough to put women's cricket on the map, especially in India.
The Women in Blue started off their World Cup campaign on a solid note by outclassing England in Derby. They then defeated West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka before losing consecutive matches against South Africa and Australia in the group stage. India needed to win their final group encounter and they smashed New Zealand by 186 runs to qualify for the semi-finals.
Prior to the semi-final, Harmanpreet injured her shoulder while batting in the nets and there were doubts about her fitness. However, the batswoman from Punjab was never going to miss this game, and later went on to produce a once-in-a-lifetime innings.
THE HARMAN'FREAK' SHOW
The semi-final was reduced to a 42-over encounter due to a heavy downpour and Harmanpreet walked into bat after India were reduced to 35 for 2 in 9.2 overs. They had lost both their openers - Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut - and it was up to her and Mithali to pull their team out of the bog. The likes of Megan Schutt, Ellyse Perry, Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner were bowling well and both Harmanpreet and Mithali took a lot of time to settle in.
After the end of 20 overs, Harmanpreet was on 19 off 38 deliveries, batting at a strike rate of exactly 50. With two spinners bowling in tandem, Harmanpreet finally opened her shoulders and took the attack to Kristen Beams and Jonassen. The right-hander reached her first fifty off 64 balls, while the second came off just 26 deliveries. She completed her century off 90 deliveries and in the next 25 balls she faced, Harmanpreet smoked 71 runs.
She first added 66 runs with Mithali and then put on a 137-run association with Deepti Sharma for the fourth wicket. Coming in at No. 6, Veda Krishnamurthy too played her role and added 43* runs in just 20 deliveries. India got to 281/4 in 42 overs and set Australia a daunting target.
Only Belinda Clark (229*), Chamari Athapaththu (178*) and Charlotte Edwards (173*) have scored more runs in an innings in Women's World Cups. However, Harmanpreet's 171* is the highest ever score in the knockout stages of the tournament. For India, only Deepti (188 v Ireland) has scored more runs in an ODI innings.
The flamboyant batter contributed 60.85 percent of the total team runs. During her knock, Harmanpreet slammed 45 runs off 20 balls against Jonassen, smashing her for three sixes and four fours. In her final 40 deliveries on the innings, Harmanpreet scored 103 runs, including 13 fours and six sixes, at a strike rate of 257.50.
In response, Australia lost their top three batters inside eight overs but Perry (38), Elyse Villani (58-ball 75) and Alex Blackwell (56-ball 90) brought their team back in the game. However, they lost six wickets in the space of 43 runs and were reduced to 169 for 9. Blackwell however refused to throw in the towel and added 76 runs with Beams for the final wicket before she was knocked over by Deepti in the 41st over.
India put up a solid fight against the hosts England in the final and should have won the title if not for that middle-order collapse. Chasing 229, India were 191 for 3 at one stage but lost their last seven wickets for just 28 runs. They were bowled out for 219 in 48.4 overs.
Since then, India have played two more knockout tournaments and have lost both of them. They were defeated once again by England in the semi-final of the 2018 World T20 in West Indies and then lost to Australia in the final of the 2020 T20 World Cup.