Cricket: Punam Raut, spinners help India women level series against West Indies with 53-run win
After a tame middle-order collapse in the first One-day International, India levelled the three-match series in Antigua with a commanding 53-run set up by their spin trio and senior batters.
After setting a modest target of 192, West Indies’s chase went off the rails as soon as India’s spinners were brought on. Poonam Yadav (2/26), Rajeshwari Gayakwad (2/27) and Deepti Sharma (2/25) heaped pressure on the West Indies middle-order, which folded rather cheaply under lights at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium.
The hosts lost four wickets in the space of 28 deliveries as they struggled with the bounce and turn that was on offer from the wicket. The procession continued before Jhulan Goswami wrapped up the innings.
After Mithali Raj won the toss and elected to bat first, it was West Indies who grabbed momentum early in the game. Jemimah Rodrigues was dismissed for a duck and Priya Punia laboured her way to a 28-ball five before nicking a Shabika Gajnabi delivery that rose on her to the ‘keeper. The scoring rate was less than two an over when Raj (40) came to the crease courtesy of some top-notch seam bowling from Aaliyah Alleyne and Stacy-Ann King.
With Punam Raut (77) anchoring the innings at one end, Raj showed her class with cover drives, flicks and pulls that may have misled a viewer into thinking that she was batting on a road. Just when the Indian captain looked set for a big score, she chipped the ball straight to Afy Fletcher at short mid-wicket off Sheneta Grimmond.
Harmanpreet Kaur brought some much needed momentum to the Indian innings. She managed to get the odd boundary to relieve the pressure and never allowed the bowlers to bog her down, taking quick singles to rotate strike. After completing a painstaking half-century, which took 101 deliveries, Raut used the long handle effectively too. Alleyne bowled Harmanpreet with a stunning yorker and that ended India’s hopes of crossing the 200-run mark.
Shikha Pandey removed King with a delightful delivery that seamed back into the left-hander and knocked out the off-stump. Opener Natasha McLean and Shemaine Campbell tried to steady the ship but the introduction of Gayakwad and Yadav from either end saw India earn economical overs in a stretch and required run rate steadily shoot up. West Indies’ problems mounted when McClean had to be stretchered off retired hurt after going down with cramps while completing a run.
Captain Stafanie Taylor purred briefly with her no-nonsense approach. Yadav, though, removed her with a straight one; Taylor, going for the sweep, missed and was given out leg-before. Mithali continued to operate with spin and West Indians’ hopes quickly started to fade after losing a cluster of wickets. A slight rejig in plans paid off for the visitors here. The wicket, offering plenty of purchase for the spinners, also suited them. Their fielding was below-par, however. It mattered little in the end on a night when India’s back-to-basics approach served them so well.
India 191/6 in 50 overs (Punam Raut 77, Harmanpreet Kaur 46, Mithali Raj 40; Afy Fletcher 2/32, Aaliyah Alleyne 2/38) beat West Indies 138 in 47.2 overs (Shemaine Campbelle 39, Stafanie Taylor 20; Deepti Sharma 2/25, Poonam Yadav 2/26, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2/27) by 53 runs.