Paradise Lost: Indian eves stumble at the finishing line

London, July 23:
The Indian women’s cricket team let slip a historic title triumph with nerves getting the better of it in a tense summit clash against England, leaving Mithali Raj’s giant-slaying side with the runners-up tag for a second time in the ICC World Cup, here today.
It was an anti-climactic result for India since they were well on course for a memorable triumph, sitting pretty at 191 for three in 42.5 before a batting collapse saw them bowled out for 219 in 48.4 overs.
Needing just 38 runs off 43 balls,the Indian lower middle order committed harakiri losing seven wickets for 28 runs in 6.5 overs.
Opener Punam Raut (86) and Harmanpreet Kaur’s (51) steady half centuries had set the platform but once they departed it was far from a smooth ride as England’s consistent strikes turned it into a cliff-hanger.
Veda Krishnamurthy (35 off 34 balls), Sushma Verma’s (0) and Jhulan Goswami (0) were dismissed in space of nine balls.
Krishnamurthy had raised hopes with a cameo but her sloppy shot selection off Anya Shrubsole in the 45th over changed the script as it exposed the tailenders to a pressure situation which they could not cope with.
Nevertheless, Indian women team emerged as a force in world cricket with some inpsiring peformances such as Harmanpreet Kaur’s fearless strokeplay.
However, it was one last chance for captain Mithali Raj and veteran Jhulan Goswami to have a World title in their cupboards. India were making their second appearance in a World Cup final. They lost their previous final, against Australia in Centurion, by 98 runs in 2005.
A proven performer for far too long, Jhulan delivered with three wickets in the most widely watched game in the history of women’s cricket as India restricted the hosts to 228 for seven.
Smriti Mandhana (0) must have been desperate to break her run-less streak but a four-ball duck ended her campaign in the tournament as Anya Shrubsole crashed through her defence in the second over of the Indian innings.
Mithali Raj (17 off 31) and Punam Raut added 38 runs for the second wicket before the captain trudged back to pavilion following a lazy run out. Surprisingly, Raj gave up half way after Raut called her for a run.
India were steady, going little under four an over, but England were fielding well to ensure there were no freebies. Harmanpreet came to the crease with a bag of burden on her shoulder and batted with maturity.
In company of Raut, she kept the scoreboard ticking and twice lofted left-arm sppiner Alex Hartley over the ropes, siganling that things were very much under control.
India reached 100 in the 27th over and Raut rasied her half-century with a single off Shrubsole. Harmanpreet too got to the milestone soon when she glanced Brunt to fine leg.
With two batswomen going about their business untroubled, India had a firm control over the proceedings. But England got exactly what India did not want to lose at that time: Harmanpreet’s wicket.(PTI)

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