In a line up that has dazzling batters of the class of Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur, what chances does the lower order have to step up the show and make it its own?
On March 6, 2022, world cricket and its doting legion of fans found an avid answer in the way India first collapsed and then sprung back into action with none of the top stars, barring Mandhana putting out the goods with the bat.
So how did this happen?
Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana’s partnership, one that perhaps not many have imagined to hold centrestage eventually reigned supreme as it first bailed out India from crunch situation and later, turned too much of an ordeal for Pakistan to handle.
The two joined forces when India weren’t even in proximity to 150. Pakistan bowlers were extremely skilful, effective in limiting India to 114 for the loss of six wickets. You could say, India were at the brink of a capitulation triggered by the Pakistan bowlers except it was never to be.
If there was ever an occasion where the youth rose to the fore and saved the blues that even the experienced matchwinners found hard to deal with, then this was it. And what a mega occasion too, to turn the tables on a skillful line-up like Pakistan.
Ferocious and seldom cutting all corners, Pakistan bowlers bowled full length and the fielding was aggressively set denying India any lose run. The batters found it difficult even to rotate the strike. India’s last batting pair- Vastrakar and Rana- with the ability to hit runs was left with the job to steer India towards the 200 mark. Even that looked unreachable as India’s defensive approach put more pressure on the incoming batters.
The previous batters like Mithali, Harman, Richa struggled to even clear the covers because that how conservative the approach of the batters was in the middle order. The instance they tried to accelerate they were dismissed by superb bowling effort by the Pakistan’s bowlers. Bismah got the offside covered until Pooja and Sneh let it loose.
During this seventh-wicket partnership, the batters didn’t take long to settle down. One feature of this stand was that they rotated the strike superbly. They found the gaps and first let the runs flowing. This way India reached the 150-mark. The strike rotation ensured the dot-ball pressure didn’t pileup for both the players, such a massive area of concern in mega tournaments like the World cup.
The three beautiful strokes punched through the off side by Pooja Vastrakar off Nida Dar, no slouch with her off spinners, was the prime highlight of a resilient Indian fightback.
In these overs between thirty three and forty, both all-rounders consolidated their positions and were well settled to set a decent total on board. They scored 44 runs off 41 balls. Pooja struck five boundaries in the covers, point and mid –off regions, each stroke replete with intent and buzzing with confidence.
Just the kind of resistance and then, counter-attack your lower middle order needs to show in crunch situations.
In the final ten overs, the batters began to accelerate. Bowlers were punished for sloppy deliveries. The intent was visible to attack at the closing overs by both the batters. This pair bought up the 100-run partnership in 11.4 overs.
Just who’d have seen this coming at one stage as both Mithali and Harman, the pillars of Indian batting out cheaply?
Pooja Vastrakar’s exceptional knock was a standard set for other batters to follow. Her fluent front foot shots gained momentum as Pakistan bowlers began to leak more and more runs.
They attacked and targeted spinners- Nida Dar and Nashra Sandhu, despite the fact they also bowled tight spells and did the maximum damage by dismissing Deepti, Harman, Richa and Mithali in the middle overs. Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana went after Diana Baig’s over one after the other.
This was an innings that not only counter attacked the pacers & spinners but also dint play across that avoided lapses against Spin bowlers. Instead they played with the turn and swing of the ball.
This is the highest 7th wicket partnership in ODI’s. Pooja’s stunning turn around and Sneh Rana’s brilliant game play boosted India’s chances to defend.
Once the dazzling duo put the runs on the board, it was down to a disciplined Indian bowling attack to turn up the goods. It did take some time but the wickets tumbled one after the other. Spinners Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sneh Rana and Deepti Sharma dented Pakistan’s hope to break their winless streak against India. They forced batters to play the leg spin and reaped the rewards. The spin-trio amassed seven wickets between them. The experienced Jhulan Goswami picked two wickets; Meghna took a wicket to wrap Pakistan for a total of 137 runs.
Now, here’s what the rest of the batters who flunked against Pakistan ought to learn.
They’ve got to take a page out of this inspiring partnership that held the nerve to relieve India from a big upset with the bat. That India eventually registered a win by a mammoth margin of 107-runs was down to Gayakwad and Jhulan’s magic, two of the most enterprising and capable bowlers in the line up. India will rely more on such heroics. But guess what? The main batters will have to and must step in if the team is to progress well ahead.