Star India batsman Mithali Raj scored her 17th T20I fifty and guided the team to a 52-run victory over Ireland in the Women’s World T20 Group B encounter at Guyana on Thursday. The win ensured that India made it to the semi-finals of the event for the third time - the first time after 2010.
Chasing a tricky target of 146, Ireland’s innings never quite got going as their batsmen struggled to score runs at a brisk pace on a pitch that supported the slow bowlers. They could only manage a paltry 93/8 from their 20 overs. Left-arm spinner Radha Yadav was the wrecker-in-chief and bagged 3/15 to break the back of the Irish batting line up. She coupled well with Deepti Sharma (2/15) and didn’t give easy scoring opportunities to the opposition.
While Ireland started the chase steadily and were 42/1 in 8.5 overs, they never got the momentum to score runs quickly. Opener Clare Shillington (23) did her best to score runs against the Indian spinners, but was undone by a Poonam Yadav special and was stumped by keeper Taniya Bhatia. After her departure, Isobel Joyce did try to put up a show with a gritty 33, but in the end it was not enough, as Ireland kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
As soon as Delany was dismissed by Radha, things completely went downhill for Ireland and they lost five wickets for just 18 runs, losing the match by a huge margin.
The foundations of a big India win were laid by former skipper Raj, who scored a brave 51 from 56 deliveries. Not only did she take India to a decent total, but also provided stability when the team suffered a mini-collapse during the mid-innings.
After being put into bat by Irish skipper Laura Delany, Raj along with Smriti Mandhana (33) started well and strung a partnership of 67. After Mandhana’s departure, teenage sensation Jemimah Rodrigues did play a brisk innings of 18, but was undone by a Delany delivery as she tried to up the scoring rate.
From there on India lost quick wickets, but Raj held the fort for the team. She had small partnerships with Rodrigues, Harmanpreet and Veda Krishnamurthy before finally succumbing to a Kim Garth delivery.
Raj was given a reprieve early on in the innings while batting on 3, when she tried to hit an Eimear Richardson delivery, and was dropped by Lara Maritz. This cost Ireland dear in the end as they lost the match convincingly.
As far as Ireland’s bowling is concerned, all bowlers, especially Garth did well to return with match figures of 2/22. Garth was well supported by Richardson (1/27) and Delany (1/21).
India will now play Australia on Saturday, November 17 in their last group encounter. Both teams are unbeaten in the tournament so far and have already qualified for the semi-finals.