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ICC T20 World Cup: Poonam Yadav casts a spell on Australians with her loopy leg-spin to help India win

Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav bowled a magical spell in her comeback game to steer India to a comfortable 17-run win over defending champions Australia in the opening match of the Women's T20 World Cup here on Friday.

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Last Updated: Feb 22, 2020, 07.40 AM IST
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Anand Vasu

SYDNEY: India did not have luck on their side. India did not have enough runs on the board. India did not have the firepower or depth of their opposition.

But, at the Sydney Showground, in the first match of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, India had Poonam Yadav, whose loopy leg-breaks and persistent googlies landed like little bombs that exploded at the feet of Australia’s batters. When all seemed lost, with Australia cruising at 67 for 2 in the 10th over, chasing only 133, Poonam took the game by the scruff of its neck and dragged it back India’s way. Alyssa Healy, who had accounted for 51of the 67 runs on the board, closed the face of her bat a touch early, defeated by the dipping ball, and presented a simple return catch.

But that was merely a marker that Poonam laid down. In the 12th over, Rachael Haynes ran past a wrong ‘un to be smartly stumped by Tania Bhatia, who stayed low and kept her eyes on the ball even as it died off the pitch. Elysse Perry fatally gave Poonam the charge first ball, and it was the googly once more, comfortably easing between bat-pad gap to peg back the leg stump. And Poonam should have had the hat-trick when she drew the outside edge off the very next ball, the left-handed Jess Jonassen nicking, only for the wicketkeeper to grab at the ball and put the sharp chance down.

The hat-trick may have gone abegging, but there was no stopping Poonam. In her next over, the leggie was back in the thick of things when Jonassen failed to pick the googly and swept hard against the turn. This time Bhatia was up to the task, mopping up efficiently.

At 82 for 6, suddenly the wheels had come off Australia’s chase. Poonam, who was introduced into the attack a touch late even when others were going for runs, had figures of 3-0-15-4. Interestingly, Poonam, who has been one of the leading international wicket-takers over the last two years, did not feature in India’s recent games in Australia. The last time Australia played against Poonam was two years ago, at the previous World Cup, and this lack of familiarity worked well for India.

There was more excitement in Poonam’s final over, when she had Ash Gardner bowled with a ball that simply refused to rise off the pitch, but, having bounced twice before it got to the crease, the no-ball was called, reprieving the batter. Ending with 4 for 19 from her complement of overs, Poonam had proved the difference between defeat and victory.

With the end nearing, India stepped things up, bowling Australia out for 115, winning by17 runs. But, for the first half of the game it seemed far from India’s day. Off the fourth ball of the first over after the PowerPlay, Harmanpreet Kaur, the captain of an Indian team that had raced out of the blocks was well beaten by a straight one from left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen. The ball missed the stumps, but found its mark off the pad of wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy, leaving the batter comfortably stumped. Healy, who has endured a lean trot with the bat, not making it to double figures in her last five international hits, had gotten lucky, and there was the sense that the wicket was the difference between India setting a highly competitive, even big target, and being forced to settle for a par score.

At 47 for 3, India had plenty of overs left, but not the firepower needed to capitalise. It’s not as though India did not have their share of luck. Put in to bat, India were ultra-positive, Shafali Varma (29) doing the attacking even as Smriti Mandhana rode her luck, being dropped on 0 and one. But, Mandhana could not make it count, making just 10 in the opening stand of 41.

Shafali did well to attack the straight boundary, a solid approach against the hard new ball on a sluggish pitch. The shot of Shafali’s innings was a six over wide long off, but just when it looked like India would run away with the game, Australia struck back.

India went from 41 for no loss to 47 for 3 in the space of 16 balls. This left Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma to begin a rebuilding phase. While Rodrigues did well to pick the ball off the stumps and work it to the onside, Deepti repeatedly went down on one knee to slog sweep into the deep. The pair added 53, but with Rodrigues not scoring a boundary in her 26, even a career best 49 from Deepti only pushed the score on to 132.

It would never have been enough, but for the brilliant resilience of Poonam Yadav.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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