NOVEMBER 9, 2018
Brief Scorecard: India women 194 for 5 (Harmanpreet 103, Rodrigues 59, Tahuhu 2-18) beat New Zealand women 160 for 9 (Bates 67, Hemalatha 3-26, Poonam 3-33) by 34 runs
Sixteen months after blitzing an unbeaten 171 against Australia in the 50-over World Cup semi-final in Derby last year, Harmanpreet Kaur unleashed another brutal hundred – the first by an Indian woman in T20Is – to raze New Zealand in the World T20 opener at the Providence.
After she tip-toed to 5 off 13 balls, Harmanpreet switched on the Harmonster mode and charged to a fifty off 33 balls. When she glanced Sophie Devine off her pads for a couple in the last over of India’s innings, she raised a hundred off 49 balls. Her monster sixes – she smashed eight in total – vaulted India to 194 for 5 for their second highest total in T20Is.
New Zealand opener Suzie Bates briefly threatened to do a Harmanpreet and became the top scorer in Women’s World T20s, but the rapidly rising asking rate was too much to overcome.
Harmanpreet walked out to bat when India were wobbling at 40 for 3 inside the Powerplay. Fast bowler Lea Tahuhu struck with her first ball to burst through the defences of new opener Taniya Bhatia, and in her next over, she had Smriti Mandhana holing out to deep midwicket, where Hayley Jensen leapt to her left and pulled off a blinding catch – an early contender for the highlights reel of this tournament. When debutant D Hemalatha jumped across off and swept weakly to short fine leg for 15 off 7 balls, questions were raised about players batting out of positions. Why was Bhatia bumped to the top after impressing in the middle order in Sri Lanka? Where would Mithali Raj bat?
Ultimately, India didn’t need Mithali at all. It was 18-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues, who made the early running in a 134-run partnership with Harmanpreet – the highest for any wicket for India in women’s T20Is. She crunched Tahuhu through extra-cover, swatted Jensen over midwicket, and even left umpire Gregory Brathwaite in the firing line with a fierce drive. After a poke here and a prod there in the early exchanges, Harmanpreet exploded when she ventured down the track and swatted offspinner Jess Watkin over the midwicket boundary. She owned the arc between long-on and midwicket, nailing five sixes and two fours. She was particularly severe on Watkin, taking her for 27 off 7 balls.
And just like that, Harmanpreet outscored Jemimah and raised her fifty in the 15th over. While Rodrigues’s strokeplay was easy on the eye, Harmanpreet’s power-hitting was extraordinary. Although she regularly stepped across the stumps or down the track, she maintained a stable base and launched the bowlers into oblivion.
Rodrigues was dismissed in the 19th over by Watkin, but by then India had passed 170. Harmanpreet then nicked behind off the penultimate ball of the innings, but she had armed her side with a mighty total.
It did not appear as mighty, though, when Bates jumped across off and mowed the ball into the leg-side boundaries. Bates ran up a 38-ball half-century, but India’s spinners kept striking at the other end. Legspinner Poonam Yadav removed Sophie Devine and Watkin off successive balls with donkey drops that turned and gripped, but it was offspinner Hemalatha, the debutant, who claimed the key wicket of captain Amy Satterthwaite, when she had her skying a sweep to square leg. When seamer Arundhati Reddy removed Bates in the 14th over, New Zealand slipped to 98 for 5. There would be no way back for them.