Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues stitched a crucial 73-run partnership, followed by young fast-bowling all-rounder Titas Sadhu bowling a deadly spell of 3-6 in four overs to help India beat Sri Lanka by 19 runs and win the country’s first gold medal in women’s T20 event at the Asian Games.
The gold medal in Asian Games is a huge prize and a historic moment for the Indian women’s cricket team after enduring a heartbreak at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, where they ended up with the silver medal after losing to Australia.
Monday’s gold medal match was also Harmanpreet Kaur’s 100th game as T20I captain, who returned after her two-match suspension was over. India had got past Malaysia in quarter-final and defeated Bangladesh, the eventual bronze medal winners, in the semi-final in their quest to win the elusive gold medal.
Electing to bat first, Smriti and Jemimah made 46 and 42 respectively on a tough pitch with turn and awkward bounce while also throwing up some puffs of dust. After the duo fell, India lost wickets in quick succession to finish with 116/7.
Titas, Player of the Match in U19 Women’s T20 World Cup final for her spell of 2-6 earlier this year, picked three wickets in a spell full of accuracy, including a double-wicket maiden first over.
Left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad took two wickets while Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar and Devika Vaidya had a scalp each to contribute in India’s gold medal win in their first-ever participation in the event as Sri Lanka ended up at 97/8.
India’s innings began with Smriti beautifully bringing out her cover drive against Oshadi Ranasinghe for four, before Shafali Verma played a sublime on-drive against Udeshika Prabodhani. But Sri Lanka quickly began to build-up pressure and that resulted in Shafali being stumped for nine.
Smriti broke free from the pressure by hitting a six – a gorgeous lofted drive over long-on off Sugandika Kumari and a four to sign off from power-play, followed by pouncing on full toss and short balls to get runs. She found able support in Jemimah, who used sweep and cut to good effect against the spinners while keeping scoreboard ticking through strike-rotation.
When it looked like India will post a strong total, Sri Lanka bounced back as Smriti miscued her slog-sweep against Inoka Ranaweera. Richa Ghosh’s promotion backfired as she was caught behind off Inoka. Harmanpreet and Pooja fell in quick succession, followed by Jemimah and Amanjot Kaur being dismissed in final over as India made only 27 runs in last five overs.
Chamari Athapaththu began Sri Lanka’s chase strongly by heaving Deepti Sharma high over deep mid-wicket for six and steered one past slip for four in the opening over. But the introduction of Titas turned the game on its head – having Anushka Sanjeevani caught at mid-off on her first ball and getting a nip-backer to castle Vishmi Gunaratne through the gate.
She then removed Chamari in her next over as the Sri Lankan skipper miscued a drive and was caught by fielder at cover moving to her right. Hasini Perera tried to revive Sri Lanka by hitting four fours and a six in her 22-ball 25.
But once she holed out to deep mid-wicket off Rajeshwari, Sri Lanka couldn’t come back in contention despite some boundaries coming from bats of Oshadi and Nilakshi de Silva, as India finally got their hands at a gold medal after beating the same opposition in their Women’s Asia Cup triumph last year.
Brief Scores: India 116/7 in 20 overs (Smriti Mandhana 46, Jemimah Rodrigues 42; Udeshika Prabodhani 2-16, Inoka Ranaweera 2-21) beat Sri Lanka 97/8 in 20 overs (Hasini Perera 25, Nilakshi de Silva 23; Titas Sadhu 3-6, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2-20) by 19 runs
Press Release, Source: IANS