Review | CWC22 | M#18- IND v AUS | Healy, Lanning guided Australia through to the semis
Written By: Ritwika Dhar, Jay Dansinghani
Picture Courtesy: Getty Images
The unique Eden Park had its challenges
Eden Park was scheduled to host two World Cup matches after hosting women’s ODIs last time back in 2000. As this is a multi-sporting ground, the dimensions are also very unusual compared to typical cricketing grounds. It has a shorter straight boundary and longer squares. As a drop-in pitch, it also doesn't offer much change over the innings or assistance to the bowlers. Also, in day-night games, fielding under the lights here throws tough challenges to the fielding side. So, it was quite obvious from Meg Lanning to bowl first after winning the toss.
The mixture of poise and impetus in the Indian batting
After a soul-crushing batting performance against England in the last match, India were determined to score big against the unbeaten Aussies. They brought back Shafali Verma at the top in place of Deepti Sharma. To negate one of the best pace attacks, India needed the LHB-RHB combination. But Indian openers didn't last long as Darcie Brown plucked both openers' wickets within the first 6 overs.
From 28-2, Indian captain Mithali Raj (68 off 96) and no. 3 batter, left-hander Yastika Bhatia (59 off 83) stitched a huge partnership of 130 runs. Both of them were coming from a string of low scores but showed some resistance against the Aussie attack from the power play to the middle-overs. Australia's wayward bowling also helped them to find some rhythm in the middle.
This partnership helped India to avoid losing wickets in a cluster which has been a huge issue in the past. After Yastika’s wicket on 158, India did face a mini-collapse and were reduced to 213-6. But Harmanpreet Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar showed the late urgency in batting at the death and India finished the innings on a high with 277-7.
Lanning made yet another impactful knock in a record chase
278 was going to be the highest ever successful chase in the history of the World Cup. But, given the depth of this Aussie batting line-up, the only way India could win the match was by taking wickets and Australia just put a lid on that hope. Healy (72 off 65) and Haynes (43 off 53) put up a quick-fire opening partnership of 121 runs before Sneh Rana finally got the first breakthrough in the 20th over. Vastrakar dismissed the other set batter, Haynes, with a bouncer. With the fall of back-to-back wickets India were eyeing to make a comeback but India’s tactical errors took that slight hope to make a comeback, away. Meg Lanning who has the best average of 63.76 amongst all in the chase, came to the crease to steady the ship. She loves to play cuts through the point region and is no secret to the world that she’s the best in that. India only appointed two fielders at the point when she entered into the 90s. In the recent past where the cuts did more harm than good to Lanning, it took India way too long to understand and correct the field when she already had scored 46 runs of her 97 runs consisting of 9 boundaries through that region. And she eventually ended up playing a square drive in the point area to get out on 97.
But the horror of McGrath and Mooney from the last Australian summer felt their haunting presence at the crease. Mooney sealed the required 8 runs from the last over with two boundaries.
India needs an X-factor in the middle overs
Even if you believe that Deepti Sharma’s inclusion would have added to India’s bowling depth, skipper Mithali Raj would still be lacking X-factor partnership breakers in the middle phase.
Meg Lanning stole the headlines with her composed innings, but it was Darcie Brown who made early inroads and returned to take the wicket of Yastika Bhatia. Early in the powerplay, she troubled Smriti Mandhana both on the inside edge and the outside edge. She alternated between a conventional grip when swinging it back into the left-hander and a cross-seam grip to allow the ball to go on with the angle.
Lo and behold, Mandhana would eventually edge Brown to Lanning at slip to give Australia their first breakthrough.
Brown’s pace is also something Meg Lanning can call upon in the middle overs along with the wrist spin of Alana King. As Abhishek Muherjee pointed out in the Twitter Space we hosted in collaboration with All Over Cricket, one potential solution to India’s lack of impact bowling in the middle overs is to include leg-spinner Poonam Yadav in the XI.
There is no guarantee it will work, but India must try something to disrupt opposition batters in the post-powerplay period.
Worries and equations for India
India have not been able to take wickets in the powerplay in any of the World Cup matches barring the game against England. Jhulan struggled to find her line and length in most of the games. Bowling her at the death has also been a problem that India needs to address. Whether in the Australia series, New Zealand series, or this World Cup, Jhulan has been given the ball and she leaked some crucial runs out there. Her bowling is more suited to the powerplay and middle-overs where she maintains her line and length like none. But she doesn't have those variations in her armory that Pooja and Meghna possess better and not just only reliant on the yorkers at the death. Both those young bowlers have variations of bouncers, slower ones which needs to be utilized more smartly.
Also, lack of match-ups like bringing a Gayakwad when a Lanning comes has been missed. On a batting surface like Eden Park where good batters anyhow can find ways to score runs, India needed a 6th bowling option. But they dropped the off-spinning all-rounder Deepti Sharma who has done well and brought Shafali to further strengthen the batting and for the sake of the LHB-RHB combination.
India also shortened their lengths in an attempt to contain those runs against the shorter straight boundaries. But that had also allowed Lanning to unleash her 'A' game at the square of the wicket which was also helped by the field placements.
So far, India haven’t clicked in all 3 departments together in the World Cup. They are also in the position where they have to win both their remaining games and cannot be a better time to come out all guns blazing against Bangladesh and South Africa.