India openers Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana starred with the bat as India chased down their highest ever target in T20s successfully. With this win against Australia, they kept their hope alive in the T20I tri-series at the Junction Oval, Melbourne on Saturday.
Chasing a huge total of 174 in 20 overs, Verma and Mandhana started with a bang. Verma hammered Australia's bowling attack with her fearless approach. She hit Ellyse Perry for three consecutive boundaries in the second over. Later she welcomed Sophie Molineux with another three consecutive fours from her first three deliveries as well.
On the back of her free-flowing strokes, India reached 50 off just 26 balls. Verma hit her first six off Megan Schutt over long-off and put up 70 within the powerplay. However, Perry successfully broke the partnership by removing Verma who tried to pull but ended up giving the catch to Nicola Carey at deep mid-wicket. She smashed 49 runs off 28 balls with eight fours and a six.
Her dismissal brought Jemimah Rodrigues to the middle. She also played a few quick hits in her 19-ball 30 knocks before Schutt dismissed her. She tried to push the length ball outside the off-stump but got a nick and Alyssa Healy did the rest. However, that was not the end as Smriti Mandhana was still at the crease.
Mandhana, who anchored the chase and happily played the role of second fiddle to her partners started opening her arms. With the captain Harmanpreet Kaur at the other end, Mandhana took the onus on her shoulder with timely boundaries and strike rotations.
She scored a stable half-century - 55 off 48 with seven fours before finally trapped before the stumps off Nicola Carey in the penultimate over, leaving the equation 10 off 9. However, Deepti Sharma who moved in the order hit a classy boundary in between mid-on and mid-wicket took the chase into the last over with India still needing four runs for the win.
Sharma hit past deep mid-wicket off Ashleigh Gardner for a boundary and India reached the target with two balls to spare.
Schutt was the pick of the bowler who scalped 1 wicket for 26 runs.
Earlier in the day, India won the toss and chose to field first. Put into bat, Australia lost their swashbuckling opener Healy in a 3-ball duck. However, Ashleigh Gardner had some other plans. She did not let any bowler put up any pressure and started hitting all-over the park.
While Gardner took the upper hand, Beth Mooney supported her well before getting dismissed at 16, stitching 82 runs in 47 balls. However, a 79-run stand between Meg Lanning and Gardner put Australia in a strong position. Gardner brought up her fifty off just 33 deliveries with a few skied shots. However, she surpassed her previous best international score of 63 after getting a few lives in the game.
She ended up scoring a blitzy 93 off 57 with 11 fours and 3 sixes before Radha Yadav's changed line of bowling cleaned her up. Gardner tried to drive but played to mid-off and Deepti Sharma took a well-judged catch. Her heroics helped Australia posted a huge competitive total of 173 in 20 overs.
Sharma was the pick of the bowlers who picked up 2 wickets for 27 runs.
Brief scores: Australia 173/5 in 20 overs (Ashleigh Gardner 93; Deepti Sharma 2-27) lost to India 177/3 in 19.4 overs (Smriti Mandhana 55; Megan Schutt 1-26) by seven wickets.