After an unbeaten 171 against Australia in the 2017 World Cup, Harmanpreet Kaur became the household name in India. She got the recognition from the cricketing fraternity, she was looking for, even after becoming the first Indian cricketer to hit a century in ODI world Cup in 2013. Almost a year later, on this day, Harmanpreet Kaur, Indian T20 skipper, finds herself on the front page of the newspapers due to her whirlwind century which, helped India to start their journey with a thumping victory in 2018 World T20. 

Harmanpreet had played for Sydney Thunders in WBBL for two years by then, and later explained how it had helped her to become a better player. In the first match against New Zealand, winning the toss, Kaur chose to bat first. However, the start was not that great, as she would have expected. Instead of a seasoned campaigner, Mithali Raj, they sent Taniya Bhatia to open with Smriti Mandhana. Though she started well, India was soon reduced to 40/3 within power-play. 

Harmanpreet Kaur, the skipper, then joined Jemimah Rodrigues, who was batting on 11. Harman took her time. Her first 5 runs came from 13 balls. It was the 2nd ball of the 10th over. She danced down the track o hit Jess Watkin to over mid-wicket. Three balls later, Harman races down the track again and puts Watkin over long-off for six. She did not middle it, but that was enough to fetch her a six. 16 runs came from that over. India ended on 76/3 on its halfway mark.

After a couple of calm over, Kiwis thought that they could restrict India within a chaseable total. But they failed to read the calmness before the storm that was Harmanpreet. In the 14th over, Amy Satterthwaite was put under the hammer. Harmanpreet hit her over long-on twice in the over and took 18 from that over. Devine, who had conceded only 7 in her first, came to bowl the next over. She pitched up and outside off, Harmenpreet opened the face and, the ball ran towards the boundary bisecting the fielders between backward point and the short third man. Harmanpreet completed her half-century in 33 balls. 

Harmanpreet Kaur

Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues during the match against New Zealand in 2018 World T20. ©T20WorldCup

Sensing the match was slipping from the grip, Kasperek came into the action. She was economical in her three overs and had taken the wicket of Hemalatha. In the first two balls, Harman ran two doubles. Harman, a sensible bat didn’t only muscle the balls but, ran hard between the wickets. Kasperek banged the third ball of the over short and, Kaur opened the face and laced it away to the right of backward point and left of the cover. In the next ball, she came down the track to hit Kasperek over long-off. 16 runs came from it.

Kaur and Jemimah then collected another 15 from Jensen’s over to cross the 15o run mark with three overs to go. Harmanpreet was batting on 72 from 42. Then came one of the promising leg spinner of New Zealand, Amelia Kerr. She was only 18 but was the highest individual scorer in ODI with her 232*. The spinner who loves to use her googly very often was swept for four and then sent out of the park. She was punished for tossing the ball up. On any other day, she could have got a wicket on those but, that day belonged to Harry. 

Next over, Rodrigues felt to Watkin and, Haemanpreet was still 15 runs away from her century. Veda Krishnamurthy took two balls to give the strike to her skipper. In the last two balls of the 19th over, Watkin again faced the wrath of Harmanpreet. 5th ball of the over, which was pushed through outside off, was slog-swept into oblivion by Kaur. She was in the nineties. Watkin, tossed the ball outside off so that either Kaur miss the ball or mis-hit it. But Indian skipper dashes down the track and smokes it over wide long-on. Kaur surged to 97 with 6 balls to spare. 

Veda took a single in the first ball and, Kaur took a couple of runs, pushing the ball to the long-off. To restrict the batter, experienced Devine came round the wicket. Though she had restricted Harman to smack her for four, Harman was quick enough to steal a couple. She became the third woman to hit a hundred in a World T20. Harmanpreet treated all the bowlers with disdain, that was thrown towards her and her 48 ball century consisted of 7 fours and 8 humongous sixes.

Though Devine got her, the onslaught helped India to reach 194, the highest run in World Cups by India. Harmanpreet Kaur became the first Indian to score a hundred in World T-20 as well as she amassed the highest score by an Indian skipper in World T-20. India scored 118 runs in last 10 overs and Harmanpreet Kaur scored 83 from 34 among these balls. Her partnership of 120 runs with Jemimah, the youngest player to score a half-century in World T-20 for India, was the highest for India at any wicket.

In reply, Bates ran up a 38-ball half-century, but India’s spinners kept striking at the other end. Legspinner Poonam Yadav removed Sophie Devine and Watkin off successive balls with donkey drops that turned and gripped, but it was off-spinner Hemalatha, the debutant, who claimed the key wicket of captain Amy Satterthwaite when she had her skying a sweep to square leg. When seamer Arundhati Reddy removed Bates in the 14th over, New Zealand slipped to 98 for 5. There would be no way back for them. Once Katey Martin was sent back after 25 balls 39 by Poonam Yadav, the match was sealed. 

Brief Score:

India 194/5 (Harmanpreet Kaur 103; Lea Tahuhu 2/18) beat New Zealand 160/9 ( Suzie Bates 67; Dayalan Hemalata 3/26) by 34 runs.

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