Smriti Mandhana struck a sizzling 90 off 72 balls in a dominating batting display as India posted an imposing 281 for three against England in their Women’s World Cup opener on Saturday.
Mandhana forged a 144-run opening wicket stand with Poonam Raut (86 off 134) before skipper Mithali Raj (71 not out) completed an unprecedented seventh consecutive half century in ODIs. Raj had scored 62 not out, 54, 51 not out, 73 not out, 64 and 70 not out in her last six ODI innings.
England opted to field at the Country Ground with an aim to rattle the Indians with early wickets. However the openers Mandhana and Raut had their own plans as they batted for 26.5 overs.
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While Raut was solid at the other end, Mandhana was out to attack from the word go. The southpaw’s onslaught began when she smashed Katherine Brunt for four consecutive boundaries in the fourth over.
Mandhana was a last-minute inclusion to the squad after she recovered from an Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL) injury she suffered during the Women’s Big Bash in January. The 20-year-old during her whirlwind effort showed what she was worth the selection.
She can hit not only the fours at will but also the big hits. Mandhana mostly stayed on the back foot in her free flowing knock. Her first six came as she sat back on backfoot to hammer it over wide long-on.
She was majorly responsible for giving India a flying start as the team reached 59 in 10 overs. However, things slowed down in the next 10 overs with India reaching 97 for no loss in 20 overs. If it was not for that period, India could have easily crossed the 300-run mark.
Mandhana was dismissed in the 27th over, missing out on a well deserved century. Her innings comprised 11 fours and two sixes. Captain Raj then joined Raut in the middle and carried on with her rich vein of form to take India to a competitive total.
Raj smashed eight fours in her 73-ball knock before getting out off the last ball of the innings.