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Vastrakar, spinners sink Australia on Day 1 at the Wankhede

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Last updated on 21 Dec 2023 | 03:51 PM
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Vastrakar, spinners sink Australia on Day 1 at the Wankhede

After scoring only 219 in their first innings, and with India 98-1 at the end of day's play, the Australians have a lot of catch up to do in the Test

A team from the southern hemisphere replaced a team from the northern hemisphere, but nothing changed in their fortunes as the Indian women dominated yet another day of Test cricket at home

Things began on a positive note as Australian skipper Alyssa Healy won the toss and made India bowl first. However, that was the only positive aspect of the day for the Southern Stars, as they were packed up by Pooja Vastrakar, Sneh Rana and Deepti Sharma for just 219. 

India ended the day just 121 short of that total, as Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana scored at more than five runs per over (RPO) with ease. 

Let’s look closer at the key performances and stories that transpired on Day 1 at the Wankhede.

Rise of Pooja Vastrakar, the strike bowler

Who is a strike bowler? Someone who’s always sought by their skipper whenever the team needs a wicket? Someone who picks up wickets almost every time they take the ball in their hand? 

Pooja Vastrakar fulfilled these conditions and much more as she improved her consistency and extracted seam movement (in either direction) along with bounce. 

Australia would have expected the spinners to dominate, but Vastrakar’s pace bowling troubled them the most. 

In her first over of the day, she cleaned up Ellyse Perry with an absolute peach of a delivery jagged back in sharply to evade her bat and obliterate the stumps. Then she bounced out Beth Mooney in the last over before lunch. Later, she also sent back Annabel Sutherland and Ashleigh Gardner, breaking the back of Australian batting. 

Also read - Pooja Vastrakar shows what she's made up of

Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur would be very happy to see Pooja Vastrakar bowling consistently, as she’s now finally fulfilling the promise she showed while being drafted into the Indian side. 

The tight grip of Indian spin

On a pitch that was helpful for the spinners from the first session itself, it was imperative that the Indian spinners create impact from the word go, especially after India lost a crucial toss and bowled first when the pitch was at its best for batting. 

The Indian spinners not only were impactful, picking up five wickets amongst them, but they were also economical, bowling 54.4 overs and giving only 130 runs at 2.35 RPO. 

Initially, after the runout of Phoebe Litchfield and Pooja Vastrakar’s strike of Ellyse Perry, Tahlia McGrath and Beth Mooney had an 80 runs partnership, and it seemed like they would continue to bat with ease throughout the day. McGrath was also batting in an aggressive fashion, scoring a slew of boundaries on the offside against the pacers. 

But the consistent and accurate Sneh Rana, who was also the pick of the Indian spinners, got her to mistime a flick, and she was caught at short-mid wicket by Rajeshwari Gayakwad. 

The other Indian spinners, Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad, also bowled slow in the air, largely in the low 70s, flighting the ball and giving at all the time to turn. The ball did turn and also kept low occasionally, resulting in Alyssa Healy’s wicket. Their accuracy also allowed India to create run-rate pressure, as the Australian batters (except McGrath and Healy) failed to counterattack and plummeted in the third session of the day. 

Indian batters start off aggressively (again)!

It was like a déjà vu of the England Test, which got over just last week. 

After packing up Australia for just 219, Indian openers Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana were belligerent against anything wayward thrown at them, and sadly for Australian fans, Kim Garth and Ellyse Perry leaked runs from an open tap. 

Shafali Verma, the only Indian batter to get dismissed on the day, looked much better than the England Test, batting with a compact technique and allowing the ball to come to her. Her 40 runs included eight exquisite boundaries, which set India off to a great start. Meanwhile, Mandhana looked at her fluent best from the other end, easily scoring boundaries and ending the day unbeaten on 43 off 49 balls. 

In general, the Australian pacers lacked discipline, leaking 77 runs in just 12 overs, allowing India to polish off 98 runs within 20 overs. 

With India only one down and just 121 behind them, the Australians have a lot to do tomorrow, beginning with their pace attack. Their spinners, Ashleigh Gardner and Jess Jonassen, looked good in the short spells they bowled towards the end of the day’s play. 

A day before, Smriti Mandhana added a story on her Instagram that said, “Win in your mind and you will win in reality.” She and her team have abided by the saying so far. They would hope to continue the same on the remaining three days of the Test. 

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