Women’s Asia Cup: Shafali, Smriti, bowlers set up India’s 59-run thrashing of Bangladesh

Shafali Verma hit her first T20I fifty since March 2021 and picked two wickets with her off-spin while stand-in captain Smriti Mandhana came out all guns blazing to set up India’s 59-run thrashing of hosts and defending champions Bangladesh in Women’s Asia Cup at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Electing to bat first, Shafali (55) and Smriti (47) shared a 96-run stand for the first wicket in 12 overs. Though Bangladesh made a fightback by taking out the duo and took some scalps in the end, Jemimah Rodrigues ensured India didn’t throw away the momentum brought in by the openers with an unbeaten 35 off 24 balls.

The trio’s efforts meant India posted 159/5 in 20 overs, just 24 hours after they were bowled out for 124 and suffered a shock 13-run loss to Pakistan. In reply, Bangladesh were never in the hunt to chase 160 from the word go, as they made 51/1 in the powerplay.

Against a soaring asking rate, they lost their way in a stiff chase to end up at 100/7 in 20 overs. The win also means that India are firmly on the path to making the semifinals with eight points from five matches.

With Harmanpreet Kaur unavailable due to a niggle, the onus on India to get a big score was high on Smriti and Shafali. Smriti began aggressively by dancing down the pitch to loft Salma Khatun and Fariha Trisna for a brace of fours in successive overs.

Shafali joined her captain by flicking Fariha for six over deep square leg and hit fours through mid-wicket and long-on to take 17 runs off the fourth over. The duo then took Nahida Akter to the cleaners in the final over of power-play yielding 17 runs, including four fours.

One of the striking aspects of the opening partnership was the constant usage of the feet to go aerial and place the ball through gaps to get boundaries apart from occasional shuffling at the crease. Bangladesh found a breakthrough when Smriti was run-out at the non-striker’s end in a mix-up, with the opening stand falling short of the 100-run mark by four runs.

An over after reaching her fifty, Shafali was castled by Rumana Ahmed while attempting a reverse sweep. Rumana would take out Richa Ghosh and Kiran Navgire on successive deliveries in the 17th over.

But Jemimah got India crucial runs by slamming fours with her adept footwork and crisp drives while Deepti Sharma lofted a six over long-on before slicing to backward point in the final over as India crossed 150-mark.

In the chase, Bangladesh openers Fargana Hoque and Murshida Khatun stitched a 45-run opening stand but took nine overs to do so. Murshida departed in the 10th over after a 25-ball 21, chipping a catch to cover off Sneh Rana. Five overs later, Fargana holed out to long-on off Deepti for a rusty 40-ball 30.

Skipper Nigar Sultana tried to inject momentum in the chase with 36 off 29 balls, including five fours. But it was too late by then for Bangladesh to get back in the match. After the top three, none of their batters were able to get double-digit scores and crumbled under the pressure of a high required run rate as India got back to winning ways.

Brief scores: India 159/5 in 20 overs (Shafali Verma 55, Smriti Mandhana 47; Rumana Ahmed 3/27) beat Bangladesh 100/7 in 20 overs (Nigar Sultana 36, Fargana Hoque 30; Shafali Verma 2/10, Deepti Sharma 2/13) by 59 runs

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