Playing their fifth and last round-robin game on Friday, India’s women cricketers handed Nepal their worst defeat ever in the Asian Cricket Council’s T-20 Asia Cup. India had already emerged as the best team in the tournament by scoring their fourth straight win over Sri Lanka on December 1 but the way they humbled Nepal next day became a piece of cricket history. Nepal won the toss and asked India to bat first. The Indians finished their 20 overs at 120/5 and then bowled out Nepal for a mere 21 runs to carve out a massive 99 run win. India’s opponent for the championship game on December 4 is yet to be decided. With 6 points from 4 matches, Pakistan is widely expected to meet India in the final but if Thailand could spring surprise on Saturday by beating Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh could finish above Pakistan and one out of these two will vie for the title on Sunday.
The ACC Women’s Asia Cup T20, currently being staged at Bangkok, is the second edition of T-20 format after India won the inaugural tournament in 2012 at Guangzhou, China. The Bangkok event has 6 teams playing in round-robin format and most of them have already played at least 4 matches out of the possible 5. Besides India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh; hosts Thailand and Nepal are the other two teams. Before 2012, Asia Cup for women was a 50-over format with the inaugural 2004 tournament hosted by Sri Lanka. The second such tournament was hosted by Pakistan in 2005-06; the third in 2006 at Jaipur India and the last 50-over format was held in 2008 at Sri Lanka. India won all four 50-over format tournament and the first T-20 format. Thus they have an unconquered record in the shorter format of the Asia Cup. Incidentally India’s Test and ODI captain Mithali Raj has played in every Asia Cup since 2004 whatever be the format.
India began their 2016 Asia Cup campaign against Bangladesh with a 64-run victory at the Asian Institute Ground Bangkok on November 26. In their next outing on November 27, India defeated Thailand by 9 wickets. Their third league fixture was against arch-rivals Pakistan, whom they beat by 5 wickets on November 29. On December 1, India ensured their final’s berth by defeating Sri Lanka by 52 runs.
But what the Indian women did on December 2 was simply amazing. They were playing their last round-robin match against Nepal, who won the toss and asked India to bat first. Having already ensured their place in the final, India decided to rest Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Veda Krishnamurthy and Smiriti Mandhana. In the beginning, Nepal bowlers pushed India’s batsman and sent back openers Sabbhineni Meghana and Vellaswamy Vanita by the 5th over as India reached 29/2. But Anuja Patil and Nuzhat Parween steadied the Indian boat with a 33-run third-wicket stand. However, both Anuja and Parween fell within one run of each other. Anuja was stumped by Nepalese wicketkeeper Jyoti Pandey while Parween was run out to leave India at 62/4 in the 12th over. Buoyed by their success, Nepal bowlers pushed further and reduced India to 69/5, when Nepal’s Karuna Bhandari clean bowled Mansi Joshi. But that was as far as Nepal would go in the game because Shikha Pandey and India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur settled down and prevented the fall of any more wickets. India finished at 120/5 after 20 overs. Shikha remained unbeaten on a well-compiled 39 off 32 balls while Harmanpreet finished not out on 14 off 16 balls. At this point, Nepal didn’t know what awaited them next.
When Nepal came on to bat, they lost opener Sita Rana Nagar in the third over and other opener Jyoti Pandey in the fourth. By the 8th over, Nepal were reduced to 10/5 by some accurate spin bowling by Indians. Nepalese Wickets kept falling like nine pins and in the 15th over; they tottered at 19/7. Just two more runs could be added to Nepal’s score and the entire team was bundled out for just 21 runs in 16.3 overs. Just the other day, Bangladesh were bowled out for 44 by Pakistan and recorded the lowest total in women’s T-20 games but India did even better on Friday against Nepal. The innings had 7 extras courtesy the wide balls and thus the real batting contribution was just 14. Sarita Magar was the top-scorer with 6. For India Anuja Patil bowled 21 deliveries without conceding a run for her two wickets and Ekta Bisht bowled two maidens and took one wicket. Poonam Yadav was the most successive Indian bowler to take 3/9. With a 99-run win in the last league game, Indian women will be looking forward to annexing another Asia Cup victory on Sunday.
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