They had suffered a heavy defeat in the one-off Test four days earlier, which was just their 11th loss in the format. Asked to bowl in the first ODI at the Wankhede Stadium here on Thursday, they had their backs to the wall as India scored their highest ODI total against them. But Australia, who’ve won the 50-over World Cup a record seven times, can never be counted out. The visitors bounced back in style as Ellyse Perry, Phoebe Litchfield and Tahlia McGrath struck half-centuries to help them win by six wickets.
For the most part, it was a story of two batters battling immense physical discomfort to propel their respective teams. In the first half, Jemimah Rodrigues fought dehydration to score a 77-ball 82. Together with Pooja Vastrakar (62* off 46 balls), she guided India to a solid 282/8. In reply, Perry held firm despite calf cramps to score 75 off 72 balls. With Litchfield (78) and McGrath (68*) dominating as well, Australia finished at 285/4 and won with 21 balls to spare.
Australia faced a setback in the first over of their chase as skipper Alyssa Healy was dismissed by Renuka Singh Thakur thanks to a superb diving catch by Sneh Rana at short-third. But they paced their innings smartly from thereon as Perry joined Litchfield at the crease.
The left-right combination remained aggressive from the start and added a partnership of 148 runs for the second wicket. Perry began cramping early in her innings but kept finding boundaries to push the pressure back on India. Litchfield, who got scores of 0 and 18 in the Test match, showed her calibre by mixing caution with aggression to register the third ODI half-century of her young career.
Perry holed out to long-on in the 26th over before Litchfield was cleaned-up by Sneh, but Australia got another strong partnership thanks to Beth Mooney (42) and Tahlia McGrath to cruise home.
India have played a lot of cricket this month and shown improvement along the way in terms of fielding. But like the first T20I against England earlier in the month, their ground fielding on Thursday left a lot to be desired as Australia were gifted several boundaries. In terms of bowling, Renuka was the pick of the lot with figures of 1/30.
“Australia batted really well, they kept rotating strike and faced less dot balls,” said India’s fielding coach Munish Bali. “We’re playing ODI cricket after a long time, I think we can do better in fielding and bowling. We fielded well in patches today. In the first 25 overs, there were a couple of direct hits, Sneh took a brilliant catch and the energy was there. But we have to be consistent, which is something I’ve told the girls as well. We’ll have to get used to this format quickly.”
Earlier, Saika Ishaque was handed her ODI debut as an unwell Smriti Mandhana was rested. India lost the wicket of Shafali Verma in the third over but Yastika Bhatia, who was promoted to the opening slot, kept the scoreboard ticking with some impressive strokeplay.
However, the hosts struggled to get a firm grip on the contest as Australia kept chipping away. Yastika was dismissed for 49 before Richa Ghosh (21), Deepti Sharma (21) and Amanjot Kaur (20) got starts but couldn’t kick-on.
At 182/7 in the 38th over, India seemed on track for a well below-par total. But then came a 68-run partnership that changed the complexion of the game. Jemimah, who had come to the crease at No. 5 and seen wickets tumble at the other end, got together with Pooja to launch a well-calculated fightback.
Jemimah struggled physically for the majority of her innings and even seemed to throw up at one point after running off the field. But playing at her home ground, the 23-year-old showed khadoos attitude typical of Mumbai cricketers to get her second-highest ODI score. Pooja, who was one of the key performers in the recent Test wins against England and Australia, hit seven fours and two sixes to provide the final flourish. But with Australia putting up a formidable batting performance in reply, it wasn’t enough.