Dominant Mithali Raj gives India series
India 156 for 5 (Raj 84*) beat England 152 for 9 (Edwards 57*, Dhar 3-18, Goswami 3-34) by five wickets
Mithali Raj's third consecutive half-century gave India an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series against England in Visakhapatnam. She scored 84 in an attractive stroke-filled innings to give India a convincing five-wicket win.
For a second game in a row, India had to chase a below-par total. Raj came to the crease in the fifth over after Katherine Brunt trapped Anjum Chopra leg before for 2. Brunt bowled full and straight and got the ball to move away from the right-hander and beat Raj twice in the over. But in her next over, Raj waited for her to stray wide and drove her for fours to cover and point.
India ticked along slowly but lost two wickets and after the 23 overs they were 59 for 3 where England, at the same point of their innings, had been 56 for 2. Wicketkeeper Sulakshana Naik, who replaced Anagha Deshpande for the game, had joined Raj at the fall of the third wicket, of Priyanka Roy. Jenny Gunn came on to bowl the 24th over and was first flicked by Raj to fine leg for four and then guided her to third-man boundary by Naik. The over cost England nine runs. Raj reached her half-century (off 77 balls) in her next over to keep India on course for a series win.
The two batsmen tried to up the scoring rate and played some loose shots in the process but luck was on their side. Naik hit a four to third man by playing late to offspinner Laura Marsh while Raj got a boundary behind the wicket after she edged one off Gunn while attempting to drive. Naik fell in the 29th when trying to clear midwicket, caught by a diving Brunt on her fourth attempt.
India reached the 100-run mark in the 34th over. It had taken England seven more overs to get to the milestone and it was the middle overs that were the difference between the two innings. While Raj, along with Naik and then Rumeli Dhar, picked up singles and fours with ease, England's half-centurion Charlotte Edwards, and the middle order, were strangled by the accurate Indian spinners. England's lack of quality spin options hurt them in the series. But today even their fast bowlers struggled to keep it tight during Raj's innings. Brunt bowled three wides in the 36th over and five in all.
Right through the series, India's fast bowlers, especially their opening pair of Jhulan Goswami and Dhar, have been more disciplined and economical than their England counterparts. Today, Goswami gave India the first wicket, trapping Ebony Rainford-Brent for 12 in the seventh over. The task of rebuilding fell on Edwards once Jenny Gunn was run out with 26 on the board. Edwards and Atkins then added 39 at over three an over before Caroline Atkins fell in the 28th over trying to slog left-arm spinner Preeti Dimri.
The two left-arm spinners, Dimri and Gouher Sultana, tied England down and it was only after Danielle Hazell came to the crease in the 44th over and started throwing her bat at everything that England's scoring rate increased a touch. However it was too late to make a substantial difference by then, and Edwards' dream of a first series win in India has been put on hold.