ANI Photo | Shafali, Smriti’s near-perfect partnership guides India to 9-wicket victory over Australia Women in 1st T20I

After the ODI series setback, Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana guided India to a thumping 9-wicket victory over Australia in the 1st T20I on Friday.
Smriti and Shafali played a near-flawless innings as their 137-run opening stand helped India chase down the target with 15 balls to spare at the DY Patil Sports Academy here. With this victory, India went 1-0 up in the three-match series.
While chasing a target of 142, Smriti and Shafali neutralized the threat carried by Australian pacers Megan Schutt and Annabel Sutherland in the powerplay.
The steadfast batters paced their innings according to each delivery and sent the bad ones away for a boundary.
Australia Women found themselves on the back foot from the very first over as Darcie Brown saw two consecutive deliveries racing towards the boundary from leg bye.
Things started to go from bad to worse as she saw her third consecutive delivery racing toward the boundary from a bye. The no-ball added salt to Brown’s wounds.
Without even scoring a single run India Women found themselves putting up 14 runs on the board.
The single over gave the momentum India needed and from that point, both batters didn’t look back.
Shafali who has struggled in the past to muster up runs on the board scored which came out as the biggest positive for the hosts.
She played with all the freedom a player could ask for while Smriti held onto her end and allowed her partner to play the way she wanted.
Smriti completed her half-century in the same amount of balls, but she ended up losing her wicket while attempting to clear the stands before India clinched a comprehensive 10-wicket victory.
Earlier in the innings, after India won the toss and opted to field, Australia overcame early hiccups following a sensational spell from young rising pacer Titas Sadhu. She removed the dangerous trio of Beth Mooney (17), Tahlia McGrath (0) and Ashleigh Gardner (0) inside the powerplay.
McGrath’s six-ball duck and Gardner’s golden duck came in the final over of the powerplay. Right-arm pacer Renuka Singh also clinched the crucial wicket of skipper Alyssa Healy for a paltry score of 8 to put India in firm control.
Phoebe Litchfield whose ton brought down a handful of records in the third ODI stitched up a crucial partnership of 79 runs with Ellyse Perry to bring Australia back into the game.
Both batters successfully deflected away the spin threat of the hosts combined with the pace of Pooja Vastrakar.
Litchfield smashed Vastrakar all over the field as she struck a maximum and a boundary on the next delivery. Perry added icing to the cake by sending the ball into the stand over the deep backward square leg.
Before the 20-year-old picked up back-to-back boundaries, she was dropped by Richa Ghosh just two overs back.
India had another opportunity to neutralize the threat but confusion between two fielders saw Litchfield’s catch drop once again.
Litchfield punished the Indian team with back-to-back sixes in Amanjot Kaur’s over. The Indian pacer struck back and dismissed Litchfield for 49.
Shreyanka Patil followed up in the next over by claiming the wicket of Grace Harris. Annabel Sutherland came in, struck a maximum, and went back to the pavilion by Sandhu.
Deepti Sharma pulled India back into the game by removing set batter Perry for 37. Deepti struck once again in the same over by trapping Megan Schutt in front of the stumps.
Shreyanka got better of Georgia Wareham to end Australia’s innings with a score of 141. The two dropped catches were overshadowed by skipper Harmanpreet Kaur who successfully netted four catches to show how far India have improved in the field.
Brief Score: Australia (Phoebe Litchfield 49, Ellyse Perry 37; Titas Sadhu 4-17) vs India 145/1 (Shafali Verma 64*, Smriti Mandhana 54; Georgia Wareham 1-20) . (ANI)

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