Mithali, Rajeshwari help India set WWC semis date with Australia

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Derby: Riding on skipper Mithali Raj (109) and left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad (5/15) efforts, the Indian women’s team on Saturday steamrolled New Zealand by 186 runs and set their date with Australia in the second semi-final of the ICC Women’s World Cup here on Thursday.

Chasing a healthy 266, New Zealand crumbled under pressure and failed to offer any kind of resistance as Rajeshwari, playing her first match of the tournament, spun a web to skittle them out for a meagre 79 in the do-or-die final group tie.

The New Zealanders found themselves three-down in the 11th over and after a brief, ineffective resistance from Amy Satterthwaite (26) and Sophie Devine, they fell like nine pins as the Indian bowlers maintained an immaculate line throughout.

Such was the havoc created by the Indian bowlers that only three of New Zealand’s batters — Amy, Katey Martin (12) and Amelia Kerr (12 not out) — managed to reach double figures.

Rajeshwari was well assisted by off-spinner Deepti Sharma (2/26) while veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey and Poonam Yadav took one wicket apiece.

Earlier after being put in to bat, Mithali (109 off 123 balls, 11×4) helped resurrect India’s innings with two century stands — first a 132-run third wicket partnership with Harmanpreet Kaur (60 off 90, 7×4) and then joined forces with Veda Krishnamurthy (70 off 45, 7×4, 2×6) to add 108 runs for the fifth wicket.

India were off to a disastrous start, losing the early wickets of Smriti Mandana (13) and Punam Raut (4) to find themselves tottering at a precarious 21/2 by the eighth over.

Mithali, who on Saturday became the first Indian batswoman to notch 1000 World Cup runs, batted cautiously to steady the ship along with all-rounder Harmanpreet as the New Zealand bowlers kept testing the Indians with some tight line and length.

The 34-year-old Mithali, already the highest run-getter in the 50-over format, got to her sixth One-Day International (ODI) ton off 116 balls when she drove Leigh Kasperek between long-on and deep midwicket.

India overcame the poor start in the middle overs, milking 16-year-old leg-spinner Amelia Kerr for 64 runs besides skipper Suzie Bates leaking 59 from her 8 overs.

Veda’s innings towards the end was what India missed in the previous match against the Australians on Wednesday, as the right-hander gave the innings the much-needed acceleration, which included two towering sixes.

The final over, however, witnessed a quick fall of wickets with Mithali, Veda and Shikha Pandey (0) going one after the other as India finished at 265/7.

For the White Ferns, Kasperek was the pick of the bowlers grabbing 3/45 while Hannah Rowe took 2/30 and Lea Tahuhu contributed with the wicket of opener Punam.

Brief Scores: Indian Women: 265/7 (Mithali Raj 109, Veda Krishnamurthy 70, Harmanpreet Kaur 60, Leigh Kasperek 3/45, Hannah Rowe 2/30) beat New Zealand women: 79 (Amy Satterthwaite 26, Amelia Kerr 12 not out, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 5/15, Deepti Sharma 2/26) by 186 runs.

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