Updated: July 22, 2017 10:54:13 am
Standing on the lush green turf at the Derby County ground, India skipper Mithali Raj could hardly believe what had just transpired. In a crucial semi-final match against Australia, India orchestrated a stunning heist to book a place in the final of the Women’s World Cup. The victory was propelled by Harmanpreet Kaur’s unbeaten 171 off just 115 deliveries that numbed the world champions. The knock set the tone for India’s 281/4, which proved to be sufficient in a rain-curtailed match. “I’m speechless,” was how Raj put it at the end of the game. In fact, the upcoming final against hosts England at Lord’s will be a deja vu for Raj and Jhulan Goswami, as they are the only two members from the current team who have played in the World Cup final before, in the 2005 edition in South Africa.
“All of us are raring to be a part of that atmosphere and it is a once in a life time opportunity to be part of the finals,” Raj said, reflecting on India’s first World Cup final appearance since 2005. “If we can pull it off in the final, it will be a big thing in India. It would be kind of revolution in women’s cricket in India. Everybody has emphasised that we need to win an ICC tournament, so this is the stage and this is the platform. I probably wouldn’t have a word to describe it,” she explained.
The Indian captain termed Harmanpreet’s assault as one of the best by an Indian batter, and added that this gave her side a distinct psychological edge in the knock-out game. This was India’s second consecutive victory in a must-win clash, having prevailed over New Zealand by 186 runs to book a semifinal berth. That result came after India had lost to South Africa and Australia. “Harman’s innings was exceptional. Bowlers have done really well. Jhulan have comeback into her rhythm and Shikha also bowled well and spinners have also done a good job. This unit looks compact now,” she said. “After losing we made a comeback against New Zealand and winning a semi-finals against Australia is a huge achievement.” Harmanpreet had suffered cramps during her sensational innings and asked if she would be available for the summit clash, Raj said: “Well, I am sure she would want to be part of playing XI in the final.”
India’s turnaround looked improbable last week, when they were laid low by two consecutive defeats to South Africa and Australia. It gave fodder for critics to take swipe at India’s inability to finish off crucial games in big tournaments. However, the back-to-back wins has given India supreme confidence, and not surprisingly, Raj has sounded a warning shot to the hosts ahead of Sunday’s summit clash. “It definitely isn’t going to be easy for England. But it will come down to how we perform on that day. We really have to work on our planning and strategy because England have also peaked after being defeated by us in the first game.”
England, captained by Heather Knight, edged out South Africa by two wickets in the other semi-final, and hold the head-to-head advantage over India in the 50-over format at World Cups, with six wins to the visitors’ four. But the Indian squad’s ability to grind out results under pressure will not have gone unnoticed, least of all by the English, who were beaten by India by 35 runs in their first match of the tournament. Since that defeat the hosts have won seven matches in a row to reach the final. Knight and opening batsman Tammy Beaumont have been consistent at the top of the order, scoring 750 runs in the tournament so far, while Natalie Sciver at number four is the only player to have recorded two centuries.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.