Why women's cricket needed this match

Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana pose for the cameras Annesha Ghosh

In the fifth over of the chase, Mithali Raj hits the first six of the game. Danielle Wyatt, her opening partner, walks all the way to the striker's end and taps Raj's helmet three times.

It's another thing that Wyatt had said on the eve of the game, "If I had to play a prank on any player, I'd put a lobster in Mithali Raj's toilet."

A lobster?

"Well, you know, she's kind of this serious legend of the game, but I think she can be real fun. She's princess Mithali, so she shouldn't be having lobsters in her toilet. So when she'd open the lid, she'd scream."

Nine balls into the chase, Raj nearly pulls off a prank of her own on the England batsman. Wyatt, scampering nearly halfway down the pitch, is sent back by Raj as the cover fielder Dayalan Hemalatha, yet to make her international debut, fires a throw at the striker's end. Wyatt survives.

Raj, as has been the case for the major part of her career, goes on to outscore her team-mates. Her side, the Supernovas, clinch a thriller against the Trailblazers in a last-ball finish.


Raj and her long-time India team-mate Jhulan Goswami are involved in both the opening and closing moments of the chase.

With one needed off the last ball, Pooja Vastrakar, who is just over half as old as Raj and Goswami, swipes one straight past a diving Goswami at midwicket. The highest wicket-taker in women's ODIs only gets her fingertips to her ball and the camera cuts straight to the leading run-scorer in the format. The sight of Raj and her team-mates breaking into cheers precedes that of Suzie Bates letting out a sigh of anguish as Vastrakar completes the match-winning single off her bowling.

But it isn't the anguish you would associate with defeat. It might well be, "Gosh, we were so close to finishing on a tie!" Of course, the rules of the match don't provide for a Super Over. But the rules do allow for Bates walking away with the Player-of-the-Match award.

A day ago, one of Bates' bats had been sent to Mumbai's renowned bat manufacturer Aslam "Batman" Chaudhry, a 65-year-old whose clientele includes Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and nearly the entire Indian women's team. On the eve of the game, Bates had hoped she didn't have to bowl to her New Zealand team-mate Sophie Devine. On Tuesday, she makes the highest score from either side, 32, and then takes out Devine and finishes with 2 for 16 from three high-quality overs.


On the eve of the match, Ellyse Perry spoke of viewership numbers for major sporting leagues across the world. On match day, she's the first one to take the field at the Wankhede Stadium. Measuring tape in hand, she is as meticulous while gauging her run-up as she had been while emphasising how big it was for the women's game to have Tuesday's "landmark" fixture on TV and the web.

Replace tape with ball, and she removes Smriti Mandhana in her first over. And then she takes a spectacular low, diving catch to dismiss Jemimah Rodrigues.

That much of Mandhana's dismissal is down to Harmanpreet Kaur's athleticism - she leaps backwards and to her right to pluck the overhead chance at mid-on - is not lost on Perry. Nor is it on Mandhana's parents, who are among the 15-odd people seated in the Garware Pavilion at the time. As Perry jogs towards Harmanpreet to exchange high-fives with her captain, Mandhana's father, flanked by his wife and Mandhana's cousin, says he expects a follow-up to this game in the future.

"Of course this shouldn't be a one-off thing," he says. "The BCCI has put in a lot of effort to make this happen, but hope there's a concrete follow up. Start an IPL [for women] with four teams, maybe? Bring in more internationals and build on it."

One row in front of the Mandhanas, Wyatt's father has his cap and glares on. He hadn't expected he'd make a second trip to Mumbai in a little over a month. Less so to watch his daughter play in a game of such significance at 2pm in 34-degree heat.

"If I can be sweating like this, you can imagine how hot they may be feeling now," he says. "I am not surprised that the stands look desolate. It's a great opportunity for women's cricket to shine but Mumbai can be really hot and humid, you know."

Hot, humid and relatively less enthusiastic as compared to a non-metropolitan city like Vadodara, says Ivan Rodrigues, who has been coach to his daughter Jemimah since her initiation into the game.

"Do you remember how the streets of Baroda had been filled with billboards featuring info on the ODI series [against Australia]? And the turnout was huge. Packed to capacity. Organising a game like this is the first big step, but maybe taking to a city like Baroda would have brought it the stadium audience a match like this needs."

But for starters, women's cricket needed a match like this.