Indian leg-spinner Poonam Yadav, on Friday (February 21), snatched the game from the claws of defending champions Australia by claiming four wickets in her four-over stint in the opening game of the ICC Women’s World Cup in Sydney.
Australia, who cruised to a flying start, lost crucial wickets at regular intervals to lose the match by 17 runs after India set a below-par 132-run target.
For the Aussie women, wicketkeeper-batswoman Alyssa Healy (51) and Ashleigh Gardner (34) emerged as the top scorers before being caught and bowled on Poonam Yadav and Shikha Pandey’s deliveries respectively.
Australia, who have won the competition four times in six editions, were all out for 115 in 19.5 overs
“A bowler like Poonam is someone who leads from the front. We were expecting a great comeback from her. Our team is looking nice, earlier we depended on two-three players,” India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur said after the match.
Poonam, who missed the preceding tri-series due to a hand injury, also got good support from other bowlers including pacer Shikha Pandey.
The 28-year-old from Agra was on a hat-trick but narrowly missed out as wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia dropped a difficult chance.
The tournament-opener saw a record 13,000 plus attendance with a sizeable chunk supporting India.
“It was great for me to come back from injury and perform like this. It was the third time that I was on a hat-trick but satisfied that I was able to do the job for the team,” said Poonam at the post-match presentation.
In the first innings, 16-year-old Shafali Verma took India to 41 for no loss in four overs with a typical 29 off 15 balls but her fall derailed the innings as the other batters disappointed.
Deepti Sharma made a composed 46-ball 49 in the second half of the innings but the firepower that India needed in the death overs was badly missing.
Sent into bat, India were cruising at 40 for no loss in four overs with Shafali taking the opposition to the cleaners with five fours and a six. However, left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen (2/24) snapped two quick wickets, Smriti Mandhana (10 off 11)and Harmanpreet Kaur (2 off 5) to reduce India to 47 for three.
Deepti then shared 53 runs with Jemimah Rodrigues (26 off 33) to bring up the hundred in the 16th over.
For the hosts, Ellyse Perry (1/15) and Delissa Kimmince (1/24) were the other wicket-takers.
Earlier, India made a rollicking start with opener Mandhana blasting two boundaries in the second over off Ellyse Perry.
In the third over, Shafali also joined in, producing an inside out shot across the cover and then sending one over the long-on boundaries off Molly Strano.
Fast bowler Megan Schutt was next in the line for Shafali as she smashed four boundaries off the bowler to accumulate 16 runs in the over.
Jonassen was then introduced into the attack and she struck the first blow, trapping Mandhana.
Perry then had Shafali caught by Annabel Sutherland at mid-on as India slipped to 43 for 2 in 5.3 overs.
Skipper Harmanpreet too was back in the hut after she danced down to the pitch against Jonassen only to miss the ball completely.
Jemimah, who had survived a scare after DRS overruled an LBW decision, then joined hands with Deepti as they brought up the hundred in the 16th over.
India next play against Bangladesh in Perth on February 24.
(With inputs from agencies)