She had not played a single match of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 but once she got it, she grabbed it with both hands. Rajeshwari Gayakwad picked up her first five-wicket haul in one-day internationals and her effort against New Zealand at Derby helped India bowl out the opponents for just 79 runs and gave India a massive 186-run win which ensured they qualify for the semi-final for the first time since 2010.
This was after India posted a competitive total of 265 for the loss of seven wickets. This was because of a century from Mithali Raj and a 45-ball 70-run innings from Veda Krishnamurthy in the death overs. Harmanpreet Kaur also contributed with a half-century and shared a century stand with her captain for the third wicket.
New Zealand skipper Suzie Bates won the toss and asked India to bat first. The decision made sense as they reduced India to 21 for 2 with wickets of openers Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut. But, Raj, as she has done so many times in her career, put her head down and with Kaur, rebuilt the innings.
When the 30th over finished in the Indian innings, they were at 116 for the loss of two wickets. Though they had wickets in hand, the run-rate was painstakingly slow. Raj and Kaur were batting together and slowly moving the scorecard. Both brought up their half-centuries but Kaur fell just after which brought Krishnamurthy to the crease.
In the match against Australia where Raj scored 69 off 114, the knock was criticised for being slow but against New Zealand, Raj maintained the strike-rate close to 80. She hit the middle and even got the drives going. Kaur on the other hand struggled to middle the ball and failed to find the gaps. When she did, it looked like she was good for a big one. But, just after her half-century, which she had scored in pain of left hand, she fell to Kasperek, offering a return catch.
Deepti Sharma fell in the next over to a good catch by Rachel Priest and India were once again staring at a total of less than 250. Krishnamurthy struggled early in her innings but by this time Raj had taken the role of an anchor.
But, Krishnamurthy found some momentum with some big hits and then never looked back. A drop and then a waist high full-toss for which she got a free-hit gave her the confidence to free her arms. Both Raj and Krishnamurthy shared a century stand before both fell in the final over. But, by that time, India had made 265/7.
If New Zealand were thinking they will also enjoy batting, it did not turn out to be so. Bats closed the face of her bat early to a slightly moving Shikha Pandey delivery and was caught at slips in the second over. Jhulan Goswami accepted a return catch from Priest in the third over.
Satterthwaite and Devine were New Zealand’s hope after they had lost the early wickets. But, sensing that this could be threatening, Raj brought on her spinners. Gayakwad bowled one wide and Satterthwaite was down the pitch only to miss and be stumped.
She then strangled the batswomen. Devine tried to slash hard at a wide off-side delivery but it got the leading edge and went up in the air. Deepti ran back wards and as it was India’s day, the catch stuck in the hands of a diving Deepti.
Gayakwad and other spinners then ended it in the 26th over and bowling out New Zealand for their lowest ever World Cup score and securing a spot for India in the semi-final where they face Australia at Derby on Thursday.