Mithali, Rajeshwari help India set WWC semis date with Australia

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Derby, July 15 (IANS) Riding on skipper Mithali Raj (109) and left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad (5/15) efforts, the Indian women’s team on Saturday steamrolled New Zealand by 186 runs and set their date with Australia in the second semi-final of the ICC Women’s World Cup here on Thursday.

Chasing a healthy 266, New Zealand crumbled under pressure and failed to offer any kind of resistance as Rajeshwari, playing her first match of the tournament, spun a web to skittle them out for a meagre 79 in the do-or-die final group tie.

The New Zealanders found themselves three-down in the 11th over and after a brief, ineffective resistance from Amy Satterthwaite (26) and Sophie Devine, they fell like nine pins as the Indian bowlers maintained an immaculate line throughout.

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Such was the havoc created by the Indian bowlers that only three of New Zealand’s batters — Amy, Katey Martin (12) and Amelia Kerr (12 not out) — managed to reach double figures.

Rajeshwari was well assisted by off-spinner Deepti Sharma (2/26) while veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey and Poonam Yadav took one wicket apiece.

Earlier after being put in to bat, Mithali (109 off 123 balls, 11×4) helped resurrect India’s innings with two century stands — first a 132-run third wicket partnership with Harmanpreet Kaur (60 off 90, 7×4) and then joined forces with Veda Krishnamurthy (70 off 45, 7×4, 2×6) to add 108 runs for the fifth wicket.

India were off to a disastrous start, losing the early wickets of Smriti Mandana (13) and Punam Raut (4) to find themselves tottering at a precarious 21/2 by the eighth over.

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Mithali, who on Saturday became the first Indian batswoman to notch 1000 World Cup runs, batted cautiously to steady the ship along with all-rounder Harmanpreet as the New Zealand bowlers kept testing the Indians with some tight line and length.

The 34-year-old Mithali, already the highest run-getter in the 50-over format, got to her sixth One-Day International (ODI) ton off 116 balls when she drove Leigh Kasperek between long-on and deep midwicket.

India overcame the poor start in the middle overs, milking 16-year-old leg-spinner Amelia Kerr for 64 runs besides skipper Suzie Bates leaking 59 from her 8 overs.

Veda’s innings towards the end was what India missed in the previous match against the Australians on Wednesday, as the right-hander gave the innings the much-needed acceleration, which included two towering sixes.

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The final over, however, witnessed a quick fall of wickets with Mithali, Veda and Shikha Pandey (0) going one after the other as India finished at 265/7.

For the White Ferns, Kasperek was the pick of the bowlers grabbing 3/45 while Hannah Rowe took 2/30 and Lea Tahuhu contributed with the wicket of opener Punam.

Brief Scores: Indian Women: 265/7 (Mithali Raj 109, Veda Krishnamurthy 70, Harmanpreet Kaur 60, Leigh Kasperek 3/45, Hannah Rowe 2/30) beat New Zealand women: 79 (Amy Satterthwaite 26, Amelia Kerr 12 not out, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 5/15, Deepti Sharma 2/26) by 186 runs.

–IANS

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