Colombo: India Women followed the plan of putting up runs on the board and then choking the opposition by spin to a nicety, to beat Sri Lanka Women by 114 runs in the opening Group A game of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers at the P Sara Oval in Colombo on Tuesday (February 7).
Deepti Sharma (54), Devika Vaidya (89) and Mithali Raj (70 not out) scored half-centuries – only the fourth occasion that three or more Indians made at least a fifty in an ODI – to take India to 259 for 4. After that, the spin trio of Deepti, Ekta Bisht and Rajeshwari Gayakwad returned combined figures of 30-6-58-5 to restrict Sri Lanka to 145 for 8.
The win means that India will carry two points into the Super Six stage if both teams qualify for it.
Deepti and Vaidya, two highly rated teenagers, showed their class without taking any risks to set the tone for India’s win. When the duo came together in the sixth over, India was 9 for 1 and the Sri Lankan seamers had found the right length to keep the batters quiet.
It could have been easy for the duo to be bogged down by the dot-ball pressure. Instead, they showed great maturity in rotating the strike. The momentum clearly shifted in India’s favour when Deepti and Vaidya collected four boundaries in the space of eight balls in the 18th and 19th overs.
With the pitch having eased out, Sri Lanka found it difficult to script a comeback from that point. Vaidya in particular was impressive with her footwork. Her drives were flawless and easy on the eyes. Deepti, on the other hand, made a seamless transition from being defensive to going on the attack. She stepped out against Malsha Shehani to hit the only six of the innings.
The second-wicket partnership was worth 123 – India’s first century stand in more than a year – when Deepti, in her attempt to push the scoring, was caught at mid-off by Hasini Perera in the 32nd over.
Raj took over Deepti’s role as she and Vaidya added 49 runs in just 7.5 overs. Vaidya and Harmanpreet Kaur fell, but Raj kept the scorers busy, collecting eight well-timed boundaries in the process. Her strike-rate of 112.90 was her best in an innings where she has scored 70 or more.
Promoted to open the innings for the first time since April 2005, Eshani Lokusuriyage made her intentions very clear from the start. In the first ten overs, Sri Lanka hit seven fours to reach 40 for no loss.
The game was always going to be decided based on how Sri Lanka responded to the spinners. Bisht struck in her first over when Lokusuriyage got tempted by the flight and hit one straight to Harmanpreet at cover.
Raj set an attacking field, forcing Sri Lanka to go over the top. But the batters hit just three fours between the 11th and 31st overs as the run-rate dipped significantly. The key strike came when Chamari Atapattu, who made 30, and Hansika fell within one run of each other as Sri Lanka stumbled to 66 for 3.
Deepti had Atapattu caught and bowled, and Raj took a diving catch at cover as Gayakwad picked up her first wicket.
As many as three players were run out after that as India extended its unbeaten streak in ODIs to eight matches, going back to February 2016. The last time India had won eight or more matches at a stretch was in January 2006.