Australia's triumph against India, coming as it did by a big margin of 51 runs, did not actually depict the true picture of the way the game went on. India did put up a good fight but in patches they let the pressure they had put on the Aussies ease away. This, in the final analysis, cost the match for India.
The absence of Mithali Raj, down with viral fever, dented India's chances even before the game commenced. Raj has had a string of good scores in the CricInfo Women's World Cup with scores of 69 not out, 51 and 32 and her absence in the key match against Australia was acutely felt.
Australian captain Belinda Clark's failure, by her standards, was more than adequately covered up by the other opener Lisa Keightley who has been very impressive thus far in this competition with her consistency. She, along with the left handed Karen Rolton, took the Australian score to a position from where they could take off for some big hitting towards the end.
The measure of success of the Indian bowlers can be gauged only when they are up against some top performers like the Australian batswomen. The Indian bowling was hit but to the credit of the bowlers, they always bounced back with some inspired spells. The 110-run partnership for the second wicket notwithstanding, India at one stage had the Australians restricted to 181 for 5.
It was at this stage that the Indian fielding wilted under pressure and the sixth wicket pair enjoyed a charmed life with both Olivia Magno and Julia Price both getting reprieves with the fielders dropping easy catches in the deep. They added 42 runs for the unbroken sixth wicket, which in the ultimate analysis took the match away from India's grasp. The Indian fielding just caved in with no backing up for throws to the bowler's end. While Purnima Rau did bowl well for her 2 for 35, India's concern is the lack of form of left arm spinner Neetu David who once again went for runs.
Set a target of 224 runs, India got off to a good start with skipper Anju Jain setting the trend with some confident batting. When things looked like going well for India came about the needless run out of Jain with the Indian score reading 59. One couldn't but admire Anjum Chopra's determination in staying at the wicket though she consumed a lot of deliveries in the process. Her 47 off 105 balls and her partnership with Purnima Rau (25 off 44 balls) virtually made the game drift away from India with the asking rate crossing seven.
As a consequence of this, the Indian middle order had very few overs to score from and eventually ended at 172 for 8, thanks to a fast paced innings from Chanderkanta Kaul who goes about the business of getting runs with minimal fuss. Therese McGregor was again the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3 for 38 from her stipulated 10 overs.
India were defeated by a convincing margin but there were moments in the middle when the latter felt the pressure and even their famed fielding wilted. It was not as smooth sailing as the score would suggest as there were tense moments in the Australian camp though their better experience and preparation helped them to register a victory. Only Australia has remained unbeaten so far in this competition with both India and New Zealand having lost to them.
The next match between India and New Zealand will decide who will be placed second and third. But this match scheduled for Saturday may well be a rehearsal of the semi-final as these two teams are likely to meet again and only one can proceed to the final for a date with Australia who are likely to ward off the South African challenge in the other semi-final. So Saturday's match between New Zealand and India assumes great significance, as a victory here will be a big morale booster. The last time these two teams met was in the 1997 World Cup in India when the match ended in a tie and pitched India against Australia in the semi-finals at which stage the home team bowed out of the competition.