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England vs India: Mithali Raj and Co’s series defeat highlights pressing need to address batting woes – Cricket News

The script seemed way too familiar, just like the first ODI, as far as India Women’s batting in the second ODI is concerned. And similar was the result too as England Women were the better team on the day, notching up a series-clinching five-wicket win. The solitary saving grace was India’s much-improved bowling, which gave them a fighting chance despite posting a below par 221 with the bat.

India skipper Mithali Raj rightly credited the English seamers after the first ODI, saying they are ‘very experienced’ and an astute bunch when it comes to operating in their conditions. The English seamers perfectly exploited the overcast conditions at Bristol to make life difficult for the Indian batters.

However, it was a totally different ball game at Taunton, which is often hailed as a batting paradise. 221 in that sense, was well under par.

England skipper Heather Knight opted to bowl, perhaps considering India’s recent frailties while setting totals in ODIs. Having lost their last five ODIs while batting first, the Women in Blue were in a spot of bother once again.

There were changes in the composition of the squad. And India began with positive intent as well, but it fizzled out with the passage of time, highlighting India’s longstanding middle-order woes.

Skipper Mithali Raj's second successive fifty went in vain as India Women suffered a five-wicket loss against England Women in the 2nd ODI. AP

Skipper Mithali Raj’s second successive fifty went in vain as India Women suffered a five-wicket loss against England Women in the 2nd ODI. AP

With only two fielders outside the circle during the first powerplay, it is crucial to make the most out of that phase. Smriti Mandhana (22) and Shafali Verma (44) gave India a fairly decent start, adding 56 runs in 11.5 overs before Mandhana chopped one on to the stumps off Cross’s bowling. India opted to bring in Jemimah Rodrigues, who mostly plays T20Is, in place of Punam Raut, who consumed as many as 61 deliveries for her 32 in the first ODI. Rodrigues (8) showed intent, smacking two fours, but that didn’t last long either. India might still consider giving her a longer rope in ODI’s to give her confidence, with the World Cup in mind next year.

Harmanpreet Kaur (19) and Mihali (59) shared a 68-run stand for the fourth wicket off 103 balls, steadying the ship for India. Kaur (19), who is long due for a big knock in ODIs and is one of India’s best bets for keeping up with the scoring rate in middle-overs, once again disappointed.

Mithali, personally, was better with her strike rate (64.13) during her second successive fifty, but she found herself under undue pressure due to lack of partnerships and assistance from the other end as India collapsed from 145-4 in 33.5 overs to 181/8 in 43.5 overs.

The fall of wickets in clusters and poor rotation of strike haunted India once again, this time costing them the series. Some luck, thanks to byes and edges, and a bit of intent from Jhulan Goswami (19 off 19), helped India’s case, helping them trudge past 200.

Kate Cross kept coming at the Indian batters, bowling disciplined lines and lengths with great consistency, and hitting the deck hard to take the Indians by surprise on occasions. She eventually finished with figures of 5/34 and was ably assisted by Sophie Ecclestone (3/33), the World No 1 T20 bowler, who was potent as ever.

India took the field with a three-pronged spin attack, bringing in Poonam Yadav and Sneh Rana to bowl alongside Deepti Sharma. The homework and brainstorming done by the team management as far as the bowling composition is concerned appeared to work in their favour.

Jhulan Goswami produced an absolute jaffa to get rid of the in-form Tammy Beaumont, one that held its line after pitching on good length, but the England batter played for the swing and got cleaned up. However, unlike the first ODI, India weren’t over-reliant on their most experienced seamer.

Despite her poor showing in the first game, the management backed Pandey, who was far better with her lines and conceded only 3.80 per over. Yadav, playing after the T20 WC in Australia, went at 6.30 per over, but scalped two important wickets by enticing the batters with flight. Rana shone both with bat and ball in the one off Test, but chipped in, albeit only with the ball this time, snaring a wicket at 4.30 runs per over.

Kaur, Mithali’s deputy and the T20I skipper, was terrific with the bowling changes in the absence of Mithali, who had pain in her neck and couldn’t take the field in the second innings.

England found themselves in a precarious position in the chase, with five down at 133 in 28.5 overs, but a spirited fightback from Sophia Dunkley (73 not out) and Katherine Brunt (33 not out), who together forged a 92-run stand for the sixth wicket, once again went on to highlight the tremendous depth in England’s batting line up.

Meanwhile, Taniya Bhatia is well and truly India’s best wicketkeeper, and her sharp reflexes were on display on Wednesday with the two catches she grabbed behind the stumps. Should she chip in with the bat just as well, she’ll be a real asset for the side.

Concerns around India’s batting (rotation of strike, pacing the innings and the right personnel for doing so) still persist, and with the World Cup looming, India would want to solve them as quickly as possible. They need to post totals between 250-300 to have a real shot at becoming world champions and consistently winning against quality oppositions like Australia and England.

Neetu Singh

I am an average girl who believes hard work makes everything possible. I completed BE computer science from DU and can’t find my destiny on that. Music and Writing are the only things which make me happy and satisfied. e-mail: neetu@eaglesvine.com

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