Richa at No. 3 is a real deal
Richa Ghosh played the innings of her life, but was let down by her teammates as Australia clinched a three-run victory in the second ODI on Saturday (December 30) and took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. Chasing a target of 259, Richa scored 96 off 117 deliveries but didn’t get much support from other batters. Deepti Sharma, who took five wickets in the first innings, remained unbeaten on 24 off 36 deliveries and failed to get India over the line.
Richa is being used at No. 3 in this series and the wicketkeeper-batter seems to be loving her life in the top-order. India needed some firepower at the top and who better than Richa to do that job? The 20-year-old hit 21 off 20 in the first ODI to give a glimpse of what she is capable of, but nobody would have expected her to come up with such a mature knock under pressure, and that too on a tough batting surface.
This was only her second knock at No. 3, however, Richa crafted her innings like she has been batting in the top-order for years. The likes of Darcie Brown, Kim Garth and Annabel Sutherland kept her quiet initially, with Richa even being dropped off the first delivery she faced. She only hit three fours in her first 60 deliveries, scoring just 37 runs.
And then came the acceleration as Richa slammed 10 fours in her next 57 deliveries and scored 59 runs. She even struggled with cramps but that didn’t stop her from playing her shots all around the park. On a surface that was helpful for spinners, she got a run-a-ball 57 against them, constantly shuffling and using the depth of the crease.
She was brilliantly caught at cover four short of what would have been her maiden international century. Richa couldn’t finish the job, but did more than enough to prove her worth at No. 3. She has shown everyone what she can do if she is allowed to build her innings. This was one of those knocks that should have ended on the winning side. However, she is the last person who should be blamed for this defeat.
India’s terrible fielding
India’s catching in this game was bad, really really bad. The Women in Blue DROPPED SEVEN CATCHES and could have easily restricted Australia below 200. The fielding department has been a concern for India for a while and what they did on Saturday isn’t acceptable at the international level.
It all started in the first over when Amanjot Kaur dropped Phoebe Litchfield at short cover off Renuka Singh’s bowling. The batter was dropped two more times, with Smriti Mandhana missing one at mid-off and Yastika Bhatia at first slip. Sneh Rana also missed a chance off her own bowling, this time leaving Ellyse Perry off the hook, as the two batters put on 77 runs for the second wicket.
Mandhana dropped her second catch of the game, this time a sitter and allowed Annabel Sutherland to get away with 23 runs. Alana King was also given two reprieves in the last three overs and smashed 28* off 17 to take Australia past 250. There were also a couple of misfields and that played a massive role in India’s defeat.
Deepti stands tall with the ball, not with the bat
Considering the number of catches India dropped, Australia could have easily scored something around 300 if not for Deepti Sharma’s second five-wicket haul in ODIs. There was enough assistance on offer for the spinners and the 26-year-old made the most of it. The off-spinner dismissed Perry, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Sutherland and Georgia Wareham and returned with figures of 5/38.
Australia were 117/1 at one stage, with both Litchfield and Perry having registered their fifties, when Deepti got her first scalp. The offie had Perry caught at short mid-wicket before pinning Mooney right in front of the stumps. Meanwhile, McGrath (24 off 32) was undone by sharp turning-in delivery. Deepti then got rid of Sutherland and Wareham in her final over and became the first player from Asia to take a five-fer against Australia in Women’s ODIs.
Deepti has produced good numbers in ODIs since 2022. She had an average of 41.9 and a strike rate of 56.7 in ODIs from 2018 to 2021. However, those numbers have dropped to 25.7 and 34.3 respectively since 2022. Deepti has claimed 30 wickets in her last 21 innings at an economy of 4.5 and has been a reliable performer for India with the ball, BUT THE SAME CAN’T BE SAID ABOUT HER BATTING.
The left-hander walked out to bat when India needed 87 runs off 86 deliveries and Richa was batting like a dream at the other end. All Deepti had to do was not play dot deliveries. Howbeit, that’s exactly what she did. It took her 21 deliveries to score her first 10 runs and that put extra pressure on Richa, who perished in the 44th over with India still needing 40 off 37 balls.
The onus was now on Deepti to take India home, but neither could she find boundaries nor rotate strike. She only managed one boundary in her 36-ball knock, and this is not the first time her low strike rate has come into the limelight. She has a strike rate of just 68.8 in ODIs since 2021, which is the lowest amongst all Indian batters (at least 500 runs). India also messed up by sending her above Amanjot Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar who are clearly better hitters.
Litchfield continues to shine
Phoebe Litchfield was dropped thrice in her innings and had to work hard for her 98-ball 63. The left-handed opener batted with tremendous patience and scored her second fifty of the series. This has been quite a debut year for Litchfield, who has already slammed 485 runs in 12 innings @ 53.88 and a strike rate of 81.9, studded with four fifties and a century.
The 20-year-old, who was bought for INR 1 crore in the last WPL Auction, has an average of well above 60 against spin and looked in pretty decent control against the likes of debutant Shreyanka Patil, Sneh Rana and Deepti. She crafted six fours before inside-edging one to the keeper off Shreyanka’s bowling. Thanks to this knock, she now has the most runs for an Australia Women batter in her debut year in ODIs.
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