Sharma century takes India to victory
Jaya Sharma's unbeaten century, which was a judicious blend of defence and attack, carried India to their second successive win in the Quadrangular tournament in Chennai. Australia fought hard to defend their modest target and had India in early trouble at 63 for 3, but Sharma steadied the innings with a 56-run partnership with Hemlata Kala and provided the calming influence at the end.
The Indian bowlers, led by Rumeli Dhar and Preeti Dimri, had earlier restricted Australia to 213. Dhar maintained a nagging line, dismissed the openers and ended with figures of 2 for 23 to set the stage for Dimri. She even took a catch off Dimri's bowling to dismiss Karen Rolton for 20. Dimri, meanwhile, having slowed down her speed through the air, managed some unnerving flight and bounce in her deliveries and often beat the bat.
Lisa Sthalekar, the Australian vice-captain, made a disciplined 87 with seven fours in 112 balls. Taking singles, and rotating the strike with varying partners, she took Australia to what in the eventuality proved to be quite a few runs short of a winning total.
Sharma began slow and eliminated any risk from her batting especially after the fall of Karuna Jain (21) in the ninth over and then Mithali Raj (0) in the 13th. Fitzpatrick - looking much faster than any of the Indian bowlers - dismissed Jain with a slower ball which the opener misread and her first spell read an impressive 6-2-13-1.
Raj too misread the line of the ball and and was bowled through the gate off Kirsten Pike's fourth delivery. At 37 for 2 Anjum Chopra walked in and it looked like a partnership between the two left-handers, Chopra and Sharma, would keep India in the game. But she was run out when she failed to make the crease at the non-striker's end after Sharma had hit a shot straight to Alex Blackwell at midwicket. Blackwell threw down the stumps and India's chase looked highly tentative.
By the time Kala joined Sharma, the spinners - Sthalekar and Shelley Nitschke - had been brought in and the two upped the run-rate working off singles and hitting fours all over the field. Sharma went down on her knee and heaved Sthalekar's short-pitched offbreak for a four to midwicket. In the next over she pulled another to the boundary off Pike. Dropped twice in her innings - once by Rolton when she was at eight and by Blackwell at 42, Sharma gave the Australians much anguish driving and pulling fours.
At the end of 20 overs India had been 59 for 2. By the end of the 30th Kala and Sharma had pushed the score to 112. But Kala (18) got out soon after that when she swept Nitschke straight to Clea Smith at square leg. Dhar came to the crease and fired off a quick 22 off 23 balls and at the fall of her wicket - trapped lbw to Pike - India needed 63 to win from 78 balls.
Sharma approached the 90s with a savage pull off Pike to the square leg boundary. She slowed down considerably after she reached 90 taking another 48 balls to get to her century. Two wickets fell in a short space of time as India were close to victory but fittingly Sharma ended the agony with a four off Fitzpatrick and India won with an over to spare.