Stuck in the same groove, the Indian women’s cricket team failed to make it to the final of the World T20.
Not the first time the team have lost in the semi-finals of a tournament, the women sporting the erstwhile blue uniform of the men’s team, experienced a shutdown with the bat, ball and in the field against Australia here on Thursday.
For Australia, skipper Alex Blackwell led the chase of 119 in a clinical fashion, scoring her first international T20 half-century and booking her team’s first final berth with a seven-wicket victory and eight balls to spare.
Australia lost an early wicket, like India, in the very first over but hit a flurry of boundaries in the powerplay — unlike India — to negate the possibilities of an opposition fightback with the softer ball on slower pitch. The Aussies hit 14 boundaries, with Blackwell alone hitting eight — equal to what the entire Indian line-up could manage.
Skipper Jhulan Goswami opted for the left-arm spin of Gouhar Sultana to share the new ball with her, but Sultana was welcomed with two hits through the covers by Shelley Nitschke. Leg-spinner Priyanka Roy marked her introduction with four consecutive full tosses, with the first three clearing the on-side rope, and ended the over conceding 15 runs.
Goswami tried seven bowlers but could not create a breakthrough as Nitschke and Blackwell added 74 runs for the second wicket — Blackwell reached her first international T20 half-century in 37 balls.
Roy dismissed both but it was too late by then.
Earlier, Sulakshana Naik fell in the third delivery of the innings when her wild slash ended in the hands of Jess Cameron at point. Mithali Raj started with a couple of sublime drives but was stumped while dragging herself out to play another to a Lisa Sthalekar delivery that held its line.
At the other end, Poonam Raut was slow to get off the blocks as India managed only 23 in the powerplay against the disciplined Aussie attack. Raut took most of the strike early on, first to find her timing and then placement, before she looked for elevation to clear the in-field. The opener hit only three boundaries in her 51-ball 44 but was involved in two useful partnerships: 29 runs with Mithali for the second wicket, and 57 runs with Harmanpreet Kaur, which lent stability to the innings.
Having got a life on 7 after Blackwell’s brilliant effort running backwards saw the ball roll over off her fingers, Kaur, along with Raut, took the total to 81 for 2 in 15 overs. Both lost their wickets while trying to add quick runs.
Raut fell six short of a well-deserved half-century — taking the aerial route, she was caught at long-on. Kaur and skipper Jhulan Goswami, who pushed herself up the batting order, were run out. Amita Sharma hit the only six of the innings when she cleared Clea Smith over long-off as India set a below-par score on a slow Beausejour wicket.
“Our spinners had an off-day,” Goswami said afterwards. “They had been dong really well till now — we have always opened the bowling with spinners but unfortunately they couldn’t do much today.”
She said it was especially disappointing since the country’s expectations rested on them after the men’s team failed to get into the World T20 semi-finals.
Her Australian counterpart, Blackwell, meanwhile hoped for a double at the tournament. “I think it would be a first to have teams from the same country winning the men’s and women’s titles,” she said.