Vintage Mithali Raj’s unbeaten 75 helps India win a thriller in Worcester 

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India Women 220 for 6 (Raj 75*, Mandhana 49, Ecclestone 2-36) beat England Women 219 (Sciver 49, Knight 46, Deepti 3-47) by four wickets

(CRICINFO) India clinched a four-wicket win in the final over of the rain-curtailed third ODI of the multi-format series against England in Worcester courtesy Mithali Raj’s unbeaten 75, Smriti Mandhana’s 49 and Sneh Rana’s cameo, after Deepti Sharma’s three-for helped bowl the hosts out for 219.

Needing six of the final over, Raj, who earlier in the day became the leading run-scorer in women’s international cricket surpassing Charlotte Edwards, hit the winning four after she and No. 8 Jhulan Goswami scored two off the first two deliveries. Piercing the off side with a square drive off Katherine Brunt, Raj helped overhaul the 220 target with three balls to spare, becoming the most successful captain in women’s ODIs with an 84th win in the format leading the side.

India needed 38 off the last 30 balls in the 47-overs-a-side contest, with Raj and Rana in the middle. No. 7 Rana, making a vital 22-ball 24, kept Raj company as the duo accelerated with two fours in a 12-run 44th over, delivered by Natalie Sciver.

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Brunt conceded six singles in the next over, leaving India 14 to get off the final 12 balls. With Sciver taken off the attack, Sophie Ecclestone, bowling her 10th over having given away just 28 up to that point, was hoicked for four by Rana off the fourth ball just inches past Kate Cross at the midwicket rope. However, with four runs coming in the over – off two singles and a two prior to that boundary – and the equation down to six required off eight, Rana’s failed attempt to go big over deep square saw her being bowled.

Raj, though, ensured the chase was sealed without any further drama, her third straight fifty helping India add two points to take their tally to four against England’s six, the teams having split the four points on offer for the one-off Test in Bristol last month.

Playing her usual anchor role at No. 4, Raj struck eight fours, pivoting fifty stands with No. 5 Harmanpreet Kaur and Rana, and a 33-run fifth-wicket stand with Sharma. Veering from her typical reluctance to take the aerial route, though, Raj lofted Cross off just the fourth ball of her innings. Exuding similar intent, she unleashed a second pick-up drive en route to 16 off 32 balls, the shot – a four down the ground off Sciver in the 24th over of the run-chase – lifting her to the top of the run charts in women’s international cricket.

Though India started their pursuit promisingly, Raj’s arrival at the crease came about after the visitors lost opener Shafali Verma and No. 3 Jemimah Rodrigues inside 16 overs with 154 still required to avert a 0-3 clean sweep in the ODI leg of the tour.

Verma’s laboured 29-ball 19 culminated in her trying to clear Cross over the in-field on the off side, instead spooning it to Knight at cover, off the last ball of the reduced nine-over powerplay. India scored 46 for 1 in that period, Mandhana making 25 of that tally at a run a ball.

Rodrigues chewed up 21 balls for her four runs on the day, half her tally from her previous innings. She had two lbw dismissals – off Ecclestone – overturned by the DRS. Following the second instance, though, she chopped on the very next delivery while trying to cut crouching low.

By the time Rodrigues fell, Mandhana had marched to 40 off 45 balls, riding on an eye-pleasing array of drives, cuts to the third rope, short-arm swipes, and full-blooded pulls. A failed swipe off legspinner Sarah Glenn, however, cut short her innings as she was adjudged lbw one shy of a fifty. Mandhana’s decision to not review the umpire’s call played a part in her departure as was the case with Kaur, who was given out lbw, though replays showed the ball to have pitched outside off. Raj was at the non-striker’s end on both occasions.

Earlier, Sciver’s 49 and Heather Knight’s 46 headlined England’s performance with the bat. No. 11 Cross’s unbeaten 9-ball 16 somewhat rained down on India’s parade after their six-bowler attack, each of whom picked up at least a wicket, threatened to restrict the hosts to a less formidable score.

Seamer Shikha Pandey made early inroads after India opted to bowl at New Road following a rain delay of over an hour and half. Opener Tammy Beaumont, playing across the line to an incoming delivery from outside the off stump that also kept low, was trapped in front in the second over.

Conditions remained overcast and a touch windy as Lauren Winfield-Hill and Knight, who took her 50th ODI wicket in Kaur and reached the 3000-ODI-runs milestone on the day, steadied England after the in-form Beaumont’s departure. The duck was Beaumont’s her first scoreless innings in ODIs since November 2016 and fourth overall in the format.

After surviving a soft lbw appeal in the first over and later a stumping opportunity off a wide ball in the third over – both off Goswami – Winfield-Hill carted Pandey for three fours in the eighth over, the costliest in the innings, clubbing drives square of the wicket and down the ground.

Raj introduced a double change after the completion of the powerplay that saw England make 44 for 1. Sharma and Poonam Yadav’s spin replaced the pace of the Goswami-Pandey tandem and gave away 23 runs for a combined seven overs leading up to the 17th.

In Knight’s company, Winfield-Hill brought up the team fifty in the 13th over and strung together a second-wicket partnership worth 67. Rana’s introduction as the third spinner, though, saw Winfield-Hill, reprieved on 24, sweep down Pandey’s throat at deep midwicket for 36 as India’s tactful field placements bore fruit.

Knight then steered the rebuild, helped in no small part by Sciver’s brisk scoring. Sciver’s belligerence forced Pandey’s second spell to last only one over as Raj turned to spin again. It took Kaur five balls to break the 42-run third-wicket stand as she forced a rare mistake from Knight, who swept hard only to find Pandey at midwicket.

Sciver scored nearly at a-run-a-ball for the most part of her stay. Goswami then returned for her second spell, having gone for just 15 of her five-over first spell. By keeping a tight leash on the scoring, commendably supported by Yadav and Sharma for the most part, she stopped England from scoring a boundary between overs 28 and 43.

Amy Jones, playing her 50th ODI, fell victim to the mounting pressure. Coming down the track, cramped for space, she swung half-heartedly, at a loopy Sharma delivery only for substitute Radha Yadav, on for Kaur, to gobble it up at short midwicket.

Kaur took at least two trips off the field, limping in the second of those instances after having jagged her knee while fielding, and was kept company by the physio in the Indian dugout for some time. She returned 1 for 24 in her three overs.

While Sophia Dunkley kept the scoreboard ticking with her laps and scoops, Poonam’s googly had her partner Katherine Brunt stumped in the 41st over. Dunkley, coming off unbeaten scores of 74 and 73 in her last two innings, added 14 and 15 with Brunt and No. 9 Sophie Ecclestone respectively before Goswami had Ecclestone pinged on her front pad. Dunkley’s 35-ball 28 ended with Sharma picking up her third wicket as the ball took the leg stump in the 45th over. A tenth-wicket 13-ball 22 stand between Cross and Glenn then injected some final-overs impetus in England’s innings, with Cross hitting 4, 6, 2, 1 off Sharma’s 10th, and the innings’, last over.



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