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SportHarmanpreet Kaur dismantles England as Indian women's cricket team makes a mark

Harmanpreet Kaur dismantles England as Indian women’s cricket team makes a mark

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Being a fan of the India women’s cricket team can be fun and frustrating in equal measure. You can never second-guess which Women in Blue would turn up on a particular day. It can be the inspiring Indian unit that made its way to the 2017 ODI final, changing the face of women’s cricket forever, or it could be the exasperating side that had momentum after levelling the recently-concluded T20I series against England but wilted like a pack of cards in the decider in a performance that betrayed their talent.

Indian players are the product of a flawed system but despite the domestic springboard not having the desired elasticity, the Women in Blue have always been blessed with determined prodigies who have found a place among the world’s best.

From Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur to Jhulan Goswami and earlier Mithali Raj, India have and had multiple match-winners in their sides, but the lack of consistency has proven to be a hurdle more often than not. The inability to seize the moment and close out crucial and close matches has cost India numerous high-stakes games.

The defeat in the 2017 and 2020 World Cup finals, the silver medal finish at the Commonwealth Games, or more recently the T20 series debacle bears witness to the stumbling block. And in that respect, it is refreshing to see Team India comprehensively beat England in the second ODI at Canterbury on Wednesday to clinch their second-ever series win in the county, 23 years after they achieved the same for the first time.

Harmanpreet leads from the front

Having won the first match of the three-game series in a convincing manner, the momentum belonged to India. They were at a crucial juncture, similar to that of the T20Is, and not letting the advantage slip away was the top priority. In trying to stay ahead in the race, India and rockstar Harmanpreet produced a performance that deserves multiple reruns and recalls.

Mandhana (40) gave India a good start and Yastika Bhatia (26) played her part at the top but it was skipper Harmanpreet who decided the outcome of the match, as early as in the first innings, with a knock that makes you struggle in finding the right adjective.

Turning back the clock and reminding us of her 171* classic against Australia in 2017, the hard-hitter from Moga punished England for 143* off just 111 balls — the highest score by an Indian women’s captain in ODIs. She took 100 balls to score her century. The first fifty came in 64 balls, the second in 36. The remaining 43 runs came in just 11 deliveries, at a mind-boggling strike rate of 390.91 strike rate. Reruns and recalls are what the innings deserves.

Pull shots, slog sweeps, cover drives, the Harmanpreet ‘hurricane’ had it all and more. The captain’s knock also allowed Harleen Deol to play her natural game, as the batter initially took time to settle in and later showcased her array of shots to score 58 off 72 balls, giving Harmanpreet the required support. Together they forged a stand of 113 runs and took India to 333/5 — their second-highest total in ODIs.

Inspired second innings show

Propelled by the batting blitzkrieg, India made a strong start to the second innings, picking three wickets inside eight overs. Pacer Renuka Singh had two of them, though Emma Lamb was unlucky to be given lbw as DRS was not working at that time due to some technical issue. The third came as a result of Harmanpreet’s rocket arm as she ran Tammy Beaumont out with a direct hit from mid-off.

Harmanpreet Kaur celebrates running out England’s Tammy Beaumont. AP

The 18-year-old Alice Capsey (36) and Danni Wyatt (65) attempted to bring England back into the game but a target of 334 was always going to be an uphill task. Combined with India’s neat bowling and sharp fielding, England never stood a chance as they lost by 88 runs.

India, thus, became the only second team to win an ODI series in England in the last 15 years apart from Australia. In this period, England have won 17 out of 20 bilateral ODI series at home.

It’s a famous win for many reasons but mostly for how India seized the opportunity to put the series in the bag. This time there was no letting go and no letting down. Harmanpreet also holds a 5-0 record in ODIs since being appointed the full-time captain in the format earlier this year. It’s been a short tenure so far, but there’s no doubt, she is enjoying the new role and the team is enjoying playing under her.

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