IND v NZ sees Mithali Raj lead from the front and earn a place in the semis

Outstanding India dominated New Zealand with both bat and ball on Saturday to book a semis berth in ICC Women’s World Cup 2017.

India skipper Mithali Raj's century helped set up an insurmountable total for New Zealand in their Women's World Cup match in Derby. Photo credit: Cricket World Cup / Twitter

It was a do-or-die encounter for both teams and losing was not an option. Mithali Raj and company rose to the occasion and delivered a superb performance to notch up their fourth victory at Derby. A lot was at stake.

New Zealand skipper Suzie Bates decided to put the opposition in to bat and their bowlers kept things tight up front. The continuous pressure eventually paid off and openers Punam Raut and Smriti Mandhana were back in the hut early. India shuffled their batting order for this crucial encounter and the two most experienced batters, Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur now had the responsibility to rebuild the innings.

In contrast to what India did against Australia when the runs had completely dried up, Raj and Kaur rotated the strike at every opportunity and kept positive intent right from the start.

The duo ran hard between the wickets and never allowed the Kiwi bowlers to dominate the proceedings. Raj especially was at her fluent best and played some lovely drives which gave a slightly rusty Kaur some time to play herself in.

Even the rain delay couldn’t break the pair’s momentum. Soon Raj did what she does often: score a half-century. This was the 50th half-century for the Indian skipper, who is in the form of her life.

The run rate was increasing slowly and once, Kaur got her eye in, she decided to cut loose as well. The partnership was flourishing just at the right time.

But against the run of play, Kaur was dismissed at the start of the powerplay. She had played her part though.

Coming in to replace Kaur, Deepti Sharma didn’t last long to make Indian fans nervous. The focus was now on Veda Krishnamurthy and captain Raj who was closing in on her century!

India were nicely played at the end of 40 overs at 175/4 but now needed some big shots. Responding to the team’s need, Krishnamurthy went berserk. She thrashed the bowlers to all parts of the ground and suddenly India were looking at 250 plus.

Krishnamurthy reached her 50 off just 34 balls, while Raj played second fiddle to perfection. India was cruising towards a total.

Amidst Veda’s onslaught, Raj completed her 6th ODI century to become the first woman cricketer to register 10 fifty plus scores in a calendar year! The captain is definitely redefining the definition of consistency.

The duo departed in the final over but by then they had done their job. India had 265/7 on the board. Veda (70) and Raj (109) added 90 runs for India in the final 10 overs. It was definitely advantage India going into the break.

The batters had done their job and it was time for the bowlers to step up. Shikha Pandey provided India with just the start they required and removed Bates off her very first ball. Jhulan Goswami then got rid of the other opener Rachel Priest in the next over.

India kept taking wickets at regular intervals. After a disciplined performance from the pacers, it was time for the spinners to get in on the act. Deepti Sharma tasted success in her first over and New Zealand were 27/3.

Amy Satterthwaite kept the scoreboard ticking, and along with Sophie Devine took them past 50. But then, playing her first match of the tournament, Rajeshwari Gayakwad outfoxed Satterthwaite and with that started the great Kiwi collapse.

From 51/4 to 62/8, India’s spin trio of Gayakwad, Sharma and Poonam Yadav bamboozled the New Zealanders as India inched towards a resounding victory.

Replacing Ekta Bisht, left-arm orthodox spinner Gayakwad was impressive in her first outing and ended up with a 5 wicket-haul.

New Zealand was bundled out for 79, their lowest ever total in a World Cup match and India won by 186 runs. Raj and company remained unbeaten in Derby and interestingly they would be playing their semifinal against Australia on the same ground on July 20.

your comments