New Zealand storm into final with big win
New Zealand made it to their second World Cup final in three months with an emphatic win against India, who struggled while chasing an imposing target at Trent Bridge. Aimee Watkins, the New Zealand captain, played the innings of the tournament - an unbeaten 89 off 58 balls - and made the job easier for her bowlers.
Not that they appeared to need much help. The seamers were frugal and conceded only seven boundaries in the entire innings, five less than what Watkins hit herself. India started off slow and lost their first wicket in the second over when Poonam Raut edged an inswinger from Sian Ruck to square leg. But that brought out Mithali Raj, India's most successful batsman, to the crease, to join their most experienced batsman, Anjum Chopra. Their partnership would have been the key but they hit only two boundaries in their 23-run stand - the highest for India.
Watkins' innings was in contrast to the Indian innings and was the perfect appetiser to today's main event - the men's semi-final between Pakistan and South Africa. She slogged and cut with ease but also had luck on her side. An edge was missed by the keeper and went for four to third man and she was also beaten at times. Despite that it was an entertaining Twenty20 innings and Watkins was clearly enjoying herself, smiling after every boundary. The best of those was a square drive off Harmanpreet Kaur in an over that cost 14 runs. When she hit the first six of the match in the 17th over, slogging it over square leg, Watkins equalled Claire Taylor's 75 - then the highest score of the tournament. She hit a second six off the last ball of the innings to take New Zealand past 140.
India were virtually out of the game by the start of the eighth over of their innings when they lost two wickets in two balls. Chopra mistimed a pull from Kate Pulford and Suzie Bates came running in from midwicket to take a diving catch. Ruck came on to bowl her final over on the trot, pitched the first ball on middle and flattened the legstump to send Kaur back first-ball. Ruck, New Zealand's leading wicket-taker in the tournament, repeatedly got the ball to swing in to the right-handers and though she gave away three fours, there were no doubles or triples in her spell.
When Kaur had departed, India had collapsed to 30 for 3 and the occasional boundaries just weren't enough. They even failed to dispatch the short and wide deliveries for fours.
Though, to be fair, there were hardly any to exploit. New Zealand's seamers were very disciplined, bowling full, yorker-length deliveries and giving no room to slog. Reema Malhotra was run out after Raj refused a single in an over that yielded just one run. Amy Satterthwaite got Raj in her next over when she tried to hit over the field and was caught by Sara McGlashan. The required run-rate had climbed to more than 11 an over and with their main batsmen gone, it was just a question of whether India would last 20 overs.
The only six of the innings came too late - in the 16th over - and India will wonder whether they should have brought Amita Sharma in earlier than No. 6. The only time they looked to be on par with New Zealand was in the first ten overs of the match when Sharma and Rumeli Dhar picked up three wickets.
As a curtain-raiser, the match wasn't the best advertisement of women's cricket. But New Zealand certainly were.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo