Indian spinners produced yet another controlled performance to clinch a semi-final berth with a comfortable 52-run victory against Ireland in a group league encounter of the ICC Women's World T20 on Thursday.
After managing 145 for 6 on a slow track, Indian spinners maintained tight leash on Irish women restricting them to 93 for 8 in 20 overs. With their third win, India with six points were assured of a last-four spot along with Australia (6 points from 3 games) with New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland already even before their campaign could officially end. While India's batting performance leaving a lot to be desired, the spinners Radha Yadav (3/25 in 4 overs), Deepti Sharma (2/15 in 3 overs), Poonam Yadav (1/14 in 4 overs) and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (1/10 in 4 overs) were economical as well picked wickets at regular intervals.
India's strategy of packing off-side cordon and bowling wide of stumps, paid off as Ireland were never in the chase conceding as many as 65 dot balls (nearly 11 overs). Once Deepti got rid of Gaby Lewis (9) with a classical off-break and Poonam's loopy leg-break saw the end of Clare Shillington (23) stumped by Taniya Bhatia, Ireland had no chance whatsoever. Earlier, riding on a painstaking half-century from former skipper Mithali Raj, India managed only 145 for six after being put into bat. Promoted to open the batting, veteran Mithali (51 off 56 balls) added 67 runs in 10 overs with Smriti Mandhana (33, 29 balls) but the innings never gained required momentum on a track that remained a bit damp due to overnight showers.
The decision to bring in Jemimah Rodrigues at No 3, didn't quite work out well as Mithali never got going despite hitting four boundaries and a six. Having effectively scored 22 off five deliveries, Mithali scored another 21 off 51 balls. Her failure to rotate the strike did affect the momentum once Mandhana was bowled by medium pacer Kim Garth, trying a wild slog. She hit four boundaries and a six.
Young Rodrigues hit three fours in his 11-ball-18 but was stumped off Laura Delany's wide delivery when she tried to give charge. Skipper Harmanpreet hit a six but was soon dismissed. As wickets fell at one end, Mithali couldn't shift gears at the other end. She was finally out in the 19th over, deceived by a slower delivery from Garth but India's chances of putting up a substantial total had gone up in smoke by then.