More than 3 years and 26 matches. Yes. This is what the streak looked like for Meg Lanning and Co, who even surpassed their male counterpart. However, on the 26th of September, India, against the side they started their unbeaten run, ended their streak in a nail-biting finish. India chasing 265, completed the victory with 3 balls and 2 wickets to spare.
Jhulan Refuses to Fade Away:
The 39 years old, whom Mithali calls ‘her best’ has been the showed her prominence in the Australia series, like the previous twos. After 0/38 and 20 from 24 balls in a lost encounter, She showed her class in the 2nd ODI. She scored unbeaten 28 from 25 balls. In a brilliant in-swinger, she removed Healy in her opening spell to give Australia a shiver in the initial overs. Though a couple of no-balls denied her heroics in the last over, where she had to defend 13 runs, the controversial decision and sloppy fielding helped in Australia’s cause.
Australia who was riding the 26 match streak, decided to bat first on the third ODI. Australia made a solid caution start with their trusted opening pair back in the hunt. Back to back three boundaries against Meghna Singh took the Aussie total to 41 after the end of 8 over. Jhulan with her disciplined line conceded two boundaries in her 4 overs. When it looked like Australia has found their momentum Jhulan strike back.
It was the first ball of the 9th over. Jhulan delivered one, full outside off. Haynes aimed to go over the top down the ground. However, she lost control and her bottom hand comes off the bat. The ball went very high and settles in Verma’s hand. The resilient Rachael has gone!! Lanning came out to bat at three. The first ball was at off stump which Lanning defended on the front foot and she left the next one. The fourth ball of the ball came into her.
The next one was a bit fuller and going away from Lanning. She went for the drive. A thick inside edge rested on Richa Ghosh’s gloves who went right to her for a clean gather. Lanning was out for a duck once again to Jhulan. If we remember it was this kind of outs swingers that caused her downfall in the 2017 World Cup Semi-Final on duck. If Healy’s wicket was an example of a brilliant in-swinger in the previous match, it’s the out-swinger in this match. Australia 41/2. Jhulan completed her first spell with 6-2-15-2.
Meg Lanning is out for a duck! 😮
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) September 26, 2021
Jhulan was again brought into the attack in the batting powerplay where she went for 12 in her two overs. Still better than the other bowlers against Gardner’s onslaught. Now the final three overs. Jhulan went for 6 runs in the 49th over while conceded only 4 in the last over. She with her sheer experience and expertise checked the run flow while picking up the wicket of Annabel Sutherland. She ended the innings with 3 for 37 in her 10 overs. The most economical Indian bowler in the match.
She came out to bat in a tense situation. India needed 24 from 22. She took a single in the very first ball she faced. Stood on there on the other side, witnessed how Rana turning the tide in a spare of three balls. She defended her next two against brave Sophie Molineux, who was spot on. In the 49th over, she scored 2 runs while Rana fell to a well-directed short ball.
Meghna Singh faced the first ball to short mid-wicket. No run. 4 needed from 5. She scrambled for a single in the next. Now Jhulan is on the strike. Meg Lanning brought most of the fielders inside the circle to stop the single. The ball was fuller on off, she swings through the line and thumps it straight at the sightscreen. It lands just short of the rope but bounces over, despite a valiant chase from the long-on fielder. India broke Australia’s unbeaten run of 26 matches.
Young Blood Settled the Nerves of India:
Shafali Verma who became the youngest Indian to make debut in all the formats scored 15, 44, and 19 in three outings in ODI. Though she is young, experts expected her to play both responsible while expressing herself. Australian fast bowlers as expected used short pitch delivery to exploit her weakness. Though she showed resilience in the first two matches, shading away her devastating mood, she managed to score only 8 and 22. On the other hand, Yastika Bhatia was making her debut in this tournament. India has been experimenting with few players for their no 3 for the past three series. Bhatia looked confident in that position from the very first match. Her footwork against spinners and fearless attitude against the short pitch balls earned praise too.
Verma started cautiously once again. Way-yard bowling from Australia helped her to settle the nerves. Despite consuming a bunch of dot balls the run rate never crept up. Smriti Mandhana’s brisk innings also helped her cause. Both of them added another 50 runs partnership. Once Mandhana was removed, Yastika joined in.
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) September 26, 2021
India’s composure remained mostly unruffled following Bhatia’s arrival at the crease. Verma made a concerted effort to occupy the crease, striking at under 50 for her first 61 balls but appeared tentative in her choice of shots as well as her running between the wickets. She enjoyed the rub of the green twice: on 45, her full-blooded slog-sweep off Molineux was shelled by Sutherland at short midwicket and then, on 48, an ill-timed jump at the non-striker’s end nearly had her run out.
Yastika, the left-handed top-order bat, started with a couple of boundaries against off-spinner Ash Gardner. Apart from finding the gaps, she bisected the fielder to rotate the strike. While she continues to find the gaps easily, Verma on the other hand holds the fortress from one end. In the 27th over, delivered by Molineux, a risk-free single off the 86th ball of her innings took Verma to her maiden ODI fifty. Two balls later, Bhatia reached her maiden international half-century in a gritty knock that was equal parts daring and controlled.
Bhatia and Yastika added 101 runs in 114 balls for the 2nd wicket. India was struggling with no 3 batters for a couple of series. Yastika not only scored 99 runs at no 3 in two innings but also scored at a strike rate of 82.5. Her average is only second to Punam Raut while her strike rate is better than anyone at that position after the 2017 World Cup.
Fearless Lower Order:
After Pooja Vastrakar’s wicket, India needed 71 runs in 66 balls. Deepti Sharma joined Mithali Raj in the middle. Debutant Stella Campbell already had taken a wicket in her 8 overs and faced Deepti Sharma. She used her trusted weapon against the left-hand batter who was naturally not very comfortable against the short pitch balls. But this time Sharma sent the 2nd ball of the over through square leg boundary. A ball letter she pulled another one in the same direction. It produced the same result. 10 runs came from the 40th over. She continued her onslaught against Annabel Sutherland while sending the first ball of the next over to the boundary.
India skipper Mithali Raj fell in the same over. When it seemed like that Indian batting will once again collapse under the pressure, for which they are infamous, Sneh Rana stepped in. A couple of quiet overs between these two all-rounders where they ran for singles and doubles to ease their nerves, slowly saw the asking run rate going upward. In between Rana’s outside edge fund the boundary rope. These two who have earned the praise for their resilient batting in the Test match against England, despite their aggressive approach, tackled Molineux tactfully, without taking much risk. Rana sent Carey once again for four in the 46th over. India needed 24 from 24.
The streak … is over!
— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) September 26, 2021
Deepti was foxed by McGrath’s slower and the Australians sensed their chance once again. However, Sneh had another plan. She scooped McGrath over the fine leg in the 4th ball, while directed a bouncer through the third man with an uppercut. Sneh sent a length ball over mid-on to take 12 runs from the 3 balls. These fearless batting from Sneh Rana, who has rediscovered herself from the England tour, sealed the fate of the match. Though her wicket fell in the next over, Jhulan Goswami with all her international experience remained calm and earned the victory with a boundary. The streak of 26 matches was broken.