When Amol Muzumdar addressed his first press conference as India head coach in early December, he picked fielding as one of his “top priorities”. In that regard, his team’s performance on Saturday would be one he would want to forget in a hurry. Despite a five-for by Deepti Sharma and 96 by Richa Ghosh, Australia rode on India dropping as many as seven regulation catches to win the second women’s ODI at the Wankhede Stadium by three runs and seal the series.
While the first ODI ended up being one-sided, Australia completing the second-highest ODI run chase, the second game was a much tighter affair. It was a game of fine margins, and in the end the poor catching cost the hosts dear.
Australia opted to bat first and posted 258/8 thanks to half-centuries by Phoebe Litchfield and Ellyse Perry. It was Deepti who starred with the ball again and claimed excellent figures of 5/38. In reply, India rode on a courageous knock by Richa but couldn’t get the big hits towards the end and finished with 255/8.
In a match that saw a staggering number of catches dropped (four by Australia), Richa grabbed her opportunity at No. 3 to register her career-best ODI score.
India, who replaced Shafali Verma and Saika Ishaque with Smriti Mandhana and Shreyanka Patil, enjoyed a stream of partnerships. Even after openers Yastika Bhatia (14) and Smriti (34) were out, they remained in the chase thanks to an 88-run stand between Richa, who was dropped on 0 and 36, and Jemimah Rodrigues (44).
Even after Jemimah and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur fell in quick succession, Richa showed great maturity and stroke play to keep India’s hopes alive. But her wicket in the 44th over changed the complexion of the game as Australia picked four wickets in the last seven overs. Deepti’s 24* off 36 balls didn’t help India’s cause either.
India had dug a hole for themselves within the first eight overs as Litchfield (63) was dropped thrice. The left-hander, who scored 78 in the first ODI, top-scored again. Perry, who was dropped on 30, hit a 47-ball 50 and added a 77-run partnership with Litchfield.
At 112/1 after 22 overs, the Aussies found themselves in a promising position. But in the next 22 overs, India pulled things back nicely thanks to their spinners. They conceded just 93 runs for five wickets.
It was Deepti who triggered the fightback by dismissing Perry, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Alana King and Annabel Sutherland in what as a high-class spell. The 26-year-old all-rounder, who had played a key role in India’s Test wins against England and Australia earlier this month, used the slowness of the pitch smartly to choke the run-flow and induce false shots.
With Ash Gardner back in the hut as well, Australia were in trouble at 180/6 in the 40th over. When Deepti took her final wicket, they were only 219/8. But they ended up with a formidable total thanks to crucial cameos by Sutherland, Georgia Wareham and King, along with a generous contribution by India who dropped three more catches.