Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Haven't looked at the last ball no-ball yet: Mandhana. Mandhana scored an elegant 86 off 94 in the second ODI.
Mandhana scored an elegant 86 off 94 in the second ODI.
It's rarer than a blue moon that Smriti Mandhana has given the Indian Women's team a reason to complain ever since a mixed bag at the 2017 World Cup opened her eyes to the game's demand of impeccable consistency. So, after a crushing nine-wicket defeat to Australia in the first ODI, when skipper Mithali Raj demanded more accountability from her star openers and urged the experienced Mandhana to take the lead, the 25-year-old responded in the only way she knows best.
An elegant 86 off 94 in the second ODI on Friday (September 24) from the southpaw set up a stiff 275-run chase for the invincible hosts under lights, the furthest they'd been challenged in their record winning streak that stands at 26 now. That it still went in vain – after a dramatic final-ball heist from the hosts – would take some healing.
Fishing for positives in the heart-breaking final-ball defeat, Mandhana is pleased to have fulfilled her responsibility well – laying the groundwork for what was India's highest opening stand since her 141-run alliance with Jemimah Rodrigues in West Indies in 2019. In the nine matches since the resumption of international cricket for India Women in 2021, only once had Mandhana and her (ever-changing) opening partner provide a 50-run stand. On five occasions, they had even failed to breach the 25-run mark.
By her own admission and high standards, Mandhana hasn't felt a complete 100 per cent about her batting lately, feeling the pinch of an ever-so-slight dip in her consistency since bagging the prestigious Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award in 2018.
That bothersome phase notwithstanding, Mandhana has been India's top batter – and fourth-best overall – since the start of the new ODI Championship cycle in 2017 with 1422 runs in 29 innings, 237 clear of India's second-best Raj (1185 in 31 innings). Mandhana also averages the highest in the period amongst the top-10, at 56.88.
However, 2021 hasn't seen Mandhana at her best in the 50-overs format, especially when batting first. Her only other 50-plus score before the second ODI came in a chase against South Africa in Lucknow in March; her best in three innings in England was 49 in a chase again. She got out to a loose shot in the series opener in Mackay, making just 16 after Australia inserted India in. Mandhana duly made amends in Game 2, top-scoring for her side with a boundary-filled knock.
Happy to find some much-needed first-innings runs, and her timing back, Mandhana rued the fact that she once again let an opportunity slip to convert it into a hundred, maybe more, that could've proved a match-winning hand, like the one from her Australian counterpart, Beth Mooney.
“See, definitely, you have to take in what you have been told about your performance if you've not batted well. And so, I took all of that in my stride,” Mandhana said after India's five-wicket loss. “I thought of areas where I had to improve, and the support staff really backed me to go out there and find some runs [again]. So, yeah, happy to get some runs under the belt especially in the first innings that is.
“That said, definitely getting out at 86 does hurt. It could have been better [for the team] if I would have continued and played a better hand [making better use of] the last 20-overs.”
Setting the tempo for what was India's second-best total since the last World Cup, and just their fourth 250-plus score since – Mandhana hit 11 boundaries in her knock. She took the lead in the powerplay, forging a 74-run opening stand with Shafali Verma to deliver what the captain asked and the batting coach backed her for.
When Australia fought back through a couple of wickets in quick succession, Mandhana then joined forces with the 17-year-old Richa Ghosh. Guiding the youngster, the left-hander helped India regain the lost momentum through a run-a-ball 76-run stand that put them on course for a strong finish.
Mandhana rightly heaped high praise on the young wicketkeeper-bat, who made 44 off 50 and hit the only six of the match, for showing maturity well beyond her years to adapt to the demand of the situation after being handed a glaringly different role from Game 1, in just her career's second ODI.
“Richa had shown her power-hitting skills in the last match and today she showed that she can actually craft an innings as well,” Mandhana said.
“She has both those sides to the game, so that's a huge positive for us that she can bat in any situation for us. She can be a finisher, and she can come in to bat up the order and build partnerships. As a team we're pleased to have someone who can [be a floater] – be a power-hitter but also at the same time [be] someone who can step up and build steady partnerships with a set batter,” she added.
India's designated vice-captain in the injury-forced absence of Harmanpreet Kaur, Mandhana though chose to steer clear of the controversial waist-high no-ball ruling off the final delivery from Jhulan Goswami that gave Australia a vital lifeline that the hosts latched on to steal the required two runs and keep their unbeaten streak intact.
“We haven't really seen the ball yet as a team,” she said. “We were on the field, so on the field, it's very hard to judge if it's a waist-high no ball or not. It's still too early for us to go and see and really be unhappy about it. Definitely we'll have a look at it but, those things…when they go in your favour you're really happy. But I wouldn't want to add to the controversy on it – I seriously haven't looked at the ball yet.”