India’s first victory over World Champions Australia in their own backyard was no fluke. The 16-run margin suggests a close contest, but the defending champs were always playing catch-up. India fully deserved their success through a collective effort from number 1 to 11 in the team line-up.
In glorious sunshine, but on a pitch full of moisture, Australia's captain, Karen Rolton — who scored a century in the 2005 World Cup Final against India in South Africa — opted to bowl after winning the toss. That’s one decision that may haunt her if Australia fails to make the final.
India made a sedate start with Australia’s opening bowlers probing, but a remarkable attack of 16 runs bludgeoned by Anagha Deshpande in Emma Thompson’s fourth over was a sign of the things to come. Deshpande and Anjum Chopra put on 69 for the first wicket before Deshpande went for 45 off just 62 balls. Anjum Chopra’s watchful vigil in the
middle, painstaking at times, lasted 137 balls for her 76 runs.
Chopra and Mithali Raj, clearly the tournament’s stand-out batter who contributed a delightful 44 from just 50 balls, with Amitra Sharma (31*) and Harmanpreet Kaur (19*) enabled India to pile on 73 runs in the last seven overs. India's total of 234 for 5 against a wilting Australian attack looked rather daunting.
India captain Jhulan Goswami produced a beauty to make the essential early breakthrough. She removed Shelley Nitschke with a ball that signified India’s deadly intent. Goswami's fiery 1-34 in 10 overs set the example and no one thereon disappointed. Rumeli Dhar (1-41) and Amita Sharma (1-57) hustled, harrassed and annoyed Australia's batters. The slow left-arm spin of Gouher Sultana (2-33) and the leg-breaks of Reema Malhotra (2-32) just tightened the noose that eventually strangled Australia. Sultana’s removal of Australia’s captain was a wonderful piece of bowling and a smart stumping by Deshpande.
Anjum Chopra’s top score of 76 won her the Player of the Match award, but the collective cheer from the Indian squad when their captain walked out to the post-match presentation signified a team in total unison and with a belief that they could take the ultimate prize. After all, they had just beaten the World Champions in their own back yard.
The writer is an expert with ESPN