“I would say I have to bat till 20 overs, which is the best option. The more I bat till 18 overs, we won't collapse because if the top three or four batters can bat till the 18-20th overs then the rest can revolve around them.” Smriti Mandhana’s cyptic comment on the state of the Indian batting and the collapse during the first match in Wellington sums up the prevailing mood in the camp. Mandhana blasted a fifty off 24 balls, the fastest by an Indian but India suffered a dramatic collapse by losing nine wickets for 34 runs to lose by 23 runs. In the 2018 World T20, India had lost eight wickets for 34 runs in the semi-final against England to crash out in dramatic circumstances.
Apart from Mandhana and a solid contribution from Jemimah Rodrigues, the rest of the batting floundered. Priya Punia, whose debut cap was handed by Mithali Raj, failed to live up to expectations while Harmanpreet Kaur struggled. With Harmanpreet not firing and with Mithali also not part of the Twenty20 set-up in the long run, the Indian cricket team is missing the services of a finisher.
The bowling was also put under pressure with Sophie Devine scoring a blazing century. India’s spinners, who had worked well on the slow pitches in the West Indies during the middle overs, applied some pressure but in the death overs, they were found wanting.
For New Zealand, the win against India in the Wellington match continues their resurgence after being hammered in the first two ODIs by Mandhana’s consistency. Leah Tahuhu and Devine are the stand-out performers in the White Ferns set-up and they were boosted by contributions from Leigh Kasperek and Amelia Kerr. New Zealand is a strong force in Twenty20 Internationals and they will be keen to get Mandhana’s wicket in order to increase the pressure.
With short boundaries and a flat wicket on offer, the Eden Park venue offers spectators a chance to see plenty of big hits. For New Zealand, if they get Mandhana cheaply, then they will be at an advantage considering the team does not have Mithali. For India, they will be hoping that they avoid another collapse if they stay alive in the series.