For a reasonably long time, Mithali Raj has been India’s leading women cricketer and for nearly 10 years now, she is India’ captain. Yesterday was not the first time that Raj played a major role in taking her team to victory in the fourth ODI of the 5-Match series. In the 2005 Women’s Cricket World Cup, Raj had led India into the final before the team lost to Australia in South Africa. In Bangalore yesterday, Raj not only led India to a creditable 8-wicket victory but she also added another feather to her already colorful cap. In scoring the match-winning 81 not out, Mithali Raj went past 5000 runs in ODI cricket to become the second international player after England’s Charlotte Edwards. At the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, New Zealand captain Suzie Bates won the toss and elected to bat first. After losing Rachel Priest early, New Zealand put on 62 for the second wicket and 58 for the fourth. Thereafter, India’s spinners took over and wicket began falling regularly. Only Sophie Devine stood against the spinners in scoring 89 off 102 balls and took the New Zealand score to 220 all out in the 50th over. India began the 221-run chase with a solid opening stand before Mithali took over. Based on India’s batting performance in the earlier ODI matches, there were some apprehensions on how India’s batsmen would perform. But the India skipper laid all such doubts to rest with an unbeaten 81 off 88 balls. Ably supported by Harmanpreet Kaur’s brisk 32 off 25 balls, India finished their task with 34 balls remaining and leveled the series 2-2.
For the first time in the women’s 5-match ODI series, New Zealand batted first, presumably to mount a good total and pressurize the Indian women later in the match. Yet again, New Zealand skipper Suzie Bates led from the front in compiling 62 runs with Amy Satterthwaite for second wicket, after losing opener Priest in the third over. By the 19th over, however, both Bates and Satterthwaite had left the crease. In Sophie Devine, New Zealand found a middle-order savior, who commanded over the Indian bowlers with her forceful batting. Devine added 58 runs with Maddie Green for the fourth wicket and stood alone after her colleagues made a beeline to the pavilion. She was the last woman to get out in the 50th over for a forceful 89 off 102 balls. New Zealand ended their innings at 220 all out. For India, Rajeshwari Gaekwad and Nagarajan Niranjana took three wickets each.
Coming on to chase 221 for victory, India’s openers Smriti Mandhana and Thirush Kamini began with a 49-run partnership before Mithali Raj arrived after the fall of Kamini in the 15th over. Thus began another extremely fruitful stand of 124 runs between Smiriti and Raj before Smiriti got out in the 38th over. By then, India had already reached a commanding position and only 48 runs were needed for victory. Harmanpreet Kaur joined Mithali Raj and the two of them batted authoritatively. Harmanpreet raced away to a 25-ball 32 that included 4 fours and 2 sixes. Raj finished with an unbeaten 88-ball 81 as India reached the victory target in the 45th over. Raj crossed 5000 runs in ODI and scored her 37th half century in the 157th ODI appearance for India. Her efforts ended in India beating New Zealand by 8 wickets and the 5-match series now stands level at 2-2. The last match will be played at the same venue on July 8, 2015.