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Match Analysis

India take a small step towards exorcising ghosts of Lord's and Edgbaston

As in those two games, they stumbled after their top order put them in control, but this time they got over the line

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
12-Dec-2022
Smriti Mandhana is distraught. Most of the 47,000-plus spectators at the DY Patil Sports Academy have lost their voice. A ball after she lofted seamer Annabel Sutherland for six over mid-off, an attempted scoop to fine leg has brought about her downfall. She tells Richa Ghosh, who has faced just one ball, "khatam karke aana hai (you have to finish the game and come back)," and gets a firm "haan didi (yes sister)" in response.
Through her walk to the dugout, Mandhana is shaking her head. She is thinking about the shot that has given Australia an opening and left India needing 40 off 21.
Australia are not a side you give a second chance to. They play on the opposition's nerves and often turn around seemingly lost contests. They are battle-hardened by the competitive games they play in the Women's Big Bash League and have not lost a T20I since March 2021 - or any match in any format since October 2021.
Richa Ghosh is yet to get off the mark. She is 19, batting for only the 22nd time in a T20I, and facing all the variety and experience of Australia's attack. But she is having nothing of it. Two balls after Mandhana's departure, she smashes Sutherland over her head. Straight - you can use a protractor to check. Ghosh then smacks two more sixes in the next over, off Ashleigh Gardner.
Heather Graham bowls a four-run 19th over, in which she dismisses Deepti Sharma. It comes down to 14 off six balls, and then 5 off 1. The crowd has come back to life and the Australians can barely hear their own hearts beat. Nailcutters are going out of fashion.
Back for this series after over eight years out of the T20I side, Devika Vaidya is on strike.
Beth Mooney and Tahlia McGrath had put on an unbroken 158 - their second successive century stand - and Australia had set India a target of 188. The biggest target India had chased successfully before Sunday successfully chased in a T20I was 174. It was imperative that India made a good start to their chase, and Mandhana and Shafali Verma gave them that, getting their team to 55 for 0 at the end of the powerplay.
"This was the most mature powerplay we've had," Mandhana said post-match. "Going bang bang is easy but chasing a target with a little calculative approach in the powerplay and not losing out on wickets [was key]. We became that person and didn't really speak about it. It was more of a calculative powerplay."
After breaking a 76-run opening stand, Australia clawed their way back thanks to debutant Graham. The right-arm seam-bowling allrounder, brought on as third change, dismissed Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur in the middle overs and took the wicket of Deepti Sharma in that critical 19th over.
For India, it may have begun to look all too familiar. A top-order batter controlling the chase until the target is within sight, and then the collapse. It happened in the final of the 2017 ODI World Cup, and more recently in the Commonwealth Games gold-medal match.
Before this series, Megan Schutt had conceded 40 or more in a T20I spell only twice in 84 matches. But in the first T20I on Friday, she had gone for 18 while bowling the 20th over against a rampant Deepti. Now she's under the pump for a second game running while bowling the final over. The first five balls have gone for nine runs, and India need five to win and four to tie.
Schutt backs one of her best weapons, the yorker, and almost nails it. But Vaidya is up for it and manages to squeeze it past backward point to tie the contest and take it into a Super Over.
In two successive games, Schutt has ended up with figures of 0 for 43.

****

After Ghosh's dismissal off the second ball of India's Super Over, Mandhana takes over and finishes with 13 off the last three balls, including a glorious drive over extra-cover that sails over the rope.
"Not even in my dreams I had imagined that we'll be having a Super Over and in the Super Over with the likes of Richa, Shafali - I will be going to bat," she would say later, laughing.
India score 20, and Renuka Singh, despite being hit for two fours and a six, ensures India end Australia's winning run in 2022.
"When Richa started with a six, I was full pumping and excited," Mandhana said. "I am not an [expressive] person, who people will understand what is going on my head. But that first six was so massive, I was like wow! When [Ghosh] got out, me and Harman spoke that we can't really lose any more wickets so we'll try and hit boundaries [fours] instead of sixes. The six I hit was, I actually [tried to] hit a boundary but it went for six."
After the change in coaching staff in the lead-up to the series, this victory could reinvigorate an Indian side that is searching for its maiden world title as the Women's T20 World Cup looms. The players have spoken about taking responsibility for results, and getting more people to watch and play the sport. The blockbuster contest on Sunday was a big step down that road.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo