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New heroes emerge as India bulldoze Australia to a historic win

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Last updated on 24 Dec 2023 | 11:07 AM
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New heroes emerge as India bulldoze Australia to a historic win

It was a historic day for India, as they defeated Australia for the first time in 46 years of playing women Tests against them.

Nine years and not a single home Test in sight. Then, two of them returned to back, also against England and Australia. Now, be honest: how many of you expected India to win both of them?   

Not only have India won both the Tests, but they have demolished the two biggest powerhouses of women’s cricket on the planet - in the span of a week and half. 

When the Day 4 began, all three results were possible. But India packed up Australia without much ado as Rajeshwari Gayakwad finally struck the timber twice after being unlucky despite bowling brilliantly a day before. 

With 75 to chase in the fourth innings for a historic victory, India started off in a nervous fashion, with Shafali Verma departing early. However, Smriti Mandhana showed her class and temperament by batting with a lot of positive intent and finishing in style with a lofted straight hit for a four. 

Ahh, the sweet feeling of making history! 

India and Australia have played women’s Tests for 46 years and have met each other 11 times on the field. However, this was only the first time they managed to win against Australia, despite coming close in Gold Coast, Australia, in 2021.

The best part of this performance is that every time India needed someone to step up, a new player stepped up. If it was Deepti Sharma in the last game, it was Sneh Rana in this one. If it was Shubha Satheesh against England, it was Richa Ghosh against Australia. 

India don't know when they’ll play a Test next. However, with the upcoming challenges in front of them, there might be some crucial takeaways from this Test. 

The all-rounders supreme

Pooja Vastrakar and Deepti Sharma batted an entire session on Day 2 of the Test after India was 274/7, with the lead being only 55. They were the last recognised batting pair, and they ensured that not a single wicket fell in that session, as India managed to gain a 187-run lead. 

With Australia fighting back hard in the second innings, their partnership was invaluable, ensuring that India didn’t have to chase more than 75 in a tricky fourth-innings chase. Even against England, Deepti and Pooja lowered their anchors when the team needed them to and said, “Not today”. 

They easily defended everything Australians threw at them, which masked the concentration and effort they were putting in each block. This absorbed the team's pressure and made Alyssa Healy’s women bowl themselves to the ground. 

And to think that they provide such invaluable prowess with the bat down the order as a side hustle to their main skill - bowling! 

The impact of these two Test performances can be simply judged by the fact that in the two Tests played in the last two weeks, Deepti and Pooja have combined to score 239 runs and pick up 20 wickets for India. And crucially, they have also batted out 473 deliveries down the order, grinding the opposition bowlers to dust. 

Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur has mentioned many times these last two weeks that the skill level of players is improving from playing long-form cricket. We saw this improvement in Pooja Vastrakar during this Test, as she broke Australia’s back with four wickets in the first innings.

With a T20 World Cup scheduled in a few months, there can’t be a better time for India’s all-rounder supremes to continue being the bulwark of this team. 

Sneh Rana emerges out of the shadows

When India played a Test against England in Bristol in 2021, Sneh Rana picked up four wickets in an innings and scored 80 not out in the second innings to save India from a defeat in the Test match. Since then, she has been a part of the white-ball squads but hasn’t gotten a fixed space in the final XI. 

Most of the time, the reason has been that India have a similar skilled player in Deepti Sharma, who’s a proven performer. Even in the last Test against England in Navi Mumbai, Rana bowled quite well but managed only two scalps as Deepti ran away with a nine-wicket haul. 

However, the Test against Australia at the Wankhede was the stage where Sneh Rana finally got to headline an act for India. 

On a pitch that was slow and not a raging turner, Rana erred now and then with full tosses, but largely, she bowled with a lot of flight on the ball and used the angle of the seam cleverly to turn the ball. Her nagging accuracy forced the batters to try something different against her (for example, Phoebe Litchfield tried a reverse sweep and got bowled). 

She even took the new ball responsibilities for the Indian team, where she troubled the batters with extra bounce. 

With seven wickets in the game, Rana saved the day for her team with the ball. And by batting long on the morning of Day 2 along with Mandhana, she also rose up to the occasion with the bat as a night watcher, blunting out 57 deliveries. She has done everything she was asked of. She has passed every challenge she was thrown. 

If the Indian team management can still not get the maximum out of Rana, who’s one answer to many problems India generally faces in all three formats, we know who to blame. 

Captain Kaur, can you please bowl more?

It was as if someone had thrown a sizzling sizzler plate beneath the game. The game, being inundated with Australia’s blockathon, suddenly took a fast-paced turn when Harmanpreet Kaur decided to bowl. 

The ball came out beautifully out of her hand after completing a simple action with an inbuilt pause. The seam was visible as the revolutions imparted on the ball by Kaur rotated it like a spinning top. More often than not, it landed exactly where she intended it to. 

And as it happened, there was one question being asked by everyone who saw it - Why doesn’t Harmanpreet Kaur bowl more?!

When she came in to bowl, Australians were looking for a big lead with Tahlia McGrath and Alyssa Healy well set. But Kaur packed and couriered them both to the pavilion. After not bowling for 70 odd overs, she went to bowl nine on the trot, removing any doubts of injury impeding her bowling. 

This performance won't surprise people who know about her nine-wicket haul in the 2014 Test against South Africa. Moreover, with the upcoming T20 World Cup being in Bangladesh, if a top-five batter can bowl off-spin like this, India can afford to play an extra batter instead of a spinner. But for that to happen, Harman needs to bowl. Can you do it skip? Maybe just for the drama? Please do it! 

Richa Ghosh is no blind basher 

Blind basher. 

That’s the reputation Richa Ghosh’s pyrotechnics in the shortest format have gotten her. But after making a debut for India, which makes her father, Manabendra Ghosh, “too emotional to express in words”, Richa showed that she’s much more than a one-trick pony. 

Coming three down after the fall of Mandhana and Rana in quick succession, she batted for 104 balls along with Jemimah Rodrigues, scoring 52 herself and completing a 113-run partnership before perishing trying a big shot finally. 

Ghosh trusted her defence, and the way she manoeuvred the turning ball with hawk-like concentration and silky soft hands told that the debutante would play many more tests for India. Not only that, it also showed the maturity levels and the cricketing sense of the youngster. 

When she ran out Mooney with a throw, the world also saw her sharp presence of mind that is visible many times behind the stumps if one follows her movements carefully. 

India have a gem in Richa Ghosh. 

It’s all about how they develop her from hereon. 

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