Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur made the first fifty of women’s T20 cricket event in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as India made 154-8 in their 20 overs in their first Group A match against Australia at Edgbaston.
Apart from Harmanpreet’s 52 off 34 balls, laced with eight fours and a six, opener Shafali Verma chipped in with 33-ball 48, hitting nine boundaries to give India a fighting total on a hybrid pitch. For Australia, left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen impressed with 4-22 while Megan Schutt (2-26) and Darcie Brown (1-30) provided good support with the ball.
Electing to bat first, Smriti Mandhana gave India a good start with five delightful boundaries in first 3.2 overs. But on the very next ball, she ended up edging the ball, which nipped away off the seam, straight to wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy off Darcie.
Shafali, sedate till then, got going by dancing down the pitch and lofting over off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner’s head. She had plenty of luck on her side, getting a drive just past Darcie’s hands at mid-off. On the final ball of eighth over, Shafali had another huge slice of luck as captain Meg Lanning couldn’t come near to taking catch at mid-on.
At 20 off 21 balls after eight overs, Shafali smashed 28 runs in the next 11 balls, taking a hat-trick of boundaries off Tahlia McGrath. Despite a mix-up resulting in Yastika Bhatia’s run-out, Shafali slammed a hat-trick of fours again, this time against Darcie before gloving a catch behind to Alyssa off Jess Jonassen as Australia got the decision in their favour via review.
From the other end, Harmanpreet warmed up with leg-side boundaries off Darcie and Alana King. She then took on Ashleigh for successive boundaries – a crunched pull through deep square leg was followed by an uppish cut wide of backward point. But Jess came back to take out Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma in a two-wicket 16th over.
Harmanpreet, though, continued to get boundaries through the leg-side, pulling and whacking through the gaps to get crucial runs for her team. One of the most delightful shots was Harmanpreet dancing down the pitch to smack Jess high over long-on.
A wristy whip off Megan in the final over fetched Harmanpreet her seventh T20I fifty. Though she and Meghan Singh fell on the last two balls of the innings, it was enough to give India a fighting total.