The Indian women’s cricket team once again succumbed to the big stage fright to suffer a nine-run defeat against the mighty Australia in the gold medal match of the Commonwealth Games 2022 on Sunday.
The ‘Women In Blue’ lost the battle of nerves and also the last five wickets for 13 runs with some poor strategic moves and even more atrocious shot selections leaving a lot to be desired. Losing like winning is also a habit and in the end, the self-belief of the Southern Stars prevailed with the opposition taking a lot of pressure on themselves.
Beth Mooney (61 off 41) made a stroke-filled half century as Australia managed to reach 161 for eight despite a spirited fielding effort from India. With 50 needed off the last six overs with eight wickets in hand, and Harmanpreet (65 off 43) in the middle of a special innings, it should have been a straightforward chase for India.
However, India found a way to fluff it as they lost eight wickets for 32 runs to come short in a major final once again. India’s inexplicable batting collapse was also reminiscent of their failure in the 2017 ODI World Cup final in England.
Sharing a 96-run stand after the fall of openers, Harmanpreet and Jemimah Rodrigues (33 off 33) were controlling the chase but the latter’s dismissal triggered the collapse. The batters manufactured ways to get dismissed with innings including three run outs. India were eventually bowled out for 152 with three balls left.
The shots that Harmanpreet and Jemimah played were also questionable but they could not be solely blamed for the abject surrender.
It was between 14.3 overs and 15.5 overs, a space of nine deliveries that India lost the game with Jemimah being bowled by Megan Schutt and Harmanpreet playing a suicidal lap-scoop off Ashleigh Gardner which was brilliantly pouched by an alert Alyssa Healy.
Deepti Sharma going for a non-existent second run and Concussion sub Yastika Bhatia being sent after Radha Yadav were questionable decisions taken by coach Ramesh Powar and skipper Harman.
A silver medal finish was still a creditable one for India who beat England in the semi-finals on Saturday. It can also be said the women’s cricket debut at the Commonwealth Games was largely a success. A packed house at Edgbaston witnessed the first ever final in CWG.
Earlier, Australia opted to bat on a bright and sunny afternoon. Renuka Singh, the stand-out pacer for India in this tournament, once again provided an early breakthrough by trapping the dangerous Alyssa Healy leg before with a delivery that moved in a shade.
The Indians went for the DRS in the last second and it was successful. Mooney (61 off 41) and skipper Meg Lanning (36 off 26) then stitched a 78-run stand and once again it seemed Australia would bat India out of the game like they had done in the T20 World Cup final couple of years ago.
Lanning made her intent clear as she dispatched a length ball off Renuka over mid-off for the first six of the match. The Indian fielders who are often criticised had a fine day in the middle. It started with a close run out of Lanning and included two fine catches from Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav.
Deepti plucked one off the right hand to get rid of a well set Mooney while Radha took a low diving catch at backward point to dismiss Tahlia McGrath, who played the game despite testing positive for COVID-19.
Australia looked set for a 180 plus total but India fought back in the last five overs taking five wickets for 35 runs. Renuka ended with tidy figures of 2 for 25 in four overs while fellow pacer Meghna Singh was underbowled as India used seven bowling options.
Sneh Rana (2/38) was the most expensive bowler who bowled their full quota but took two crucial wickets of Mooney and Ashleigh Gardner.