Mithali Raj who has seen many winters and summers in Indian colour is an integral part of Indian One Day team and she proved her worth again when she became the women cricketer with the highest number of consecutive half-centuries, breaking the record of Lindsey Reeler, Charlotte Edwards and Elyse Perry, 3 years back.
70* in 62 balls (8*4) vs Srilanka ICC Women World Cup Qualifier, 7 Feb 2017
India missed the direct qualification for 2017 World Cup due to the cancelled bilateral series against Pakistan. So, they had to play the Qualifier to book a place in the World Cup. In the match against Sri Lanka, captain Mithali Raj won the toss and decided to bat first. In absence of Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma opened the innings with Mona Meshram. Though India lost Mona Meshram in the 5th over, Devika Vaidya and Deepti Sharma put up a partnership of 123 runs for the 2nd wicket.
Mithali came at the crease in the 32nd over. She usually takes time in the initial overs at any format and later started her innings aggressively. Apart from taking quick singles, Raj found the gap with ease to sent the balls to the boundary. Out of 49 runs partnership with Vaidya, Raj scored a run ball 23 with two boundaries. But after the fall of Vaidya, Raj took the responsibility to accelerate the innings.
She hit Udeshika Prabodhani two back to back boundaries in that same over and replicated the same attacking approaching in the next over where she hit two boundaries though covers to Inoka Ranaweera. Raj completed her half-century in 42 balls by taking a couple against Chamari Atapattu in 44th over. She remained unbeaten on 70 from 62 balls with 8 blistering boundaries. India went on to win the match by 114 runs.
64 in 85 balls (10*4) vs South Africa ICC Women World Cup Qualifier, 15 Feb 2017
After claiming a dominant victory over Sri Lanka, India was confident to face the side form Africa. South Africa had beaten India in their last bilateral series, so India was determined not to replicate the same mistake. Like the previous match India lost their one opener in the 11th over and unlike previous match it was Deepti Sharma who lost her wicket to Ayabonga Khaka. Raj promoted herself in the batting order and joined Meshram in the middle.
In the first 16 balls she faced she only scored 6 while keeping the wicket intact at one end. She played leg spinner Dane Van Niekerk and Khaka, who was creating trouble for Indian batters, carefully. But she took the attack to Marcia Letsoalo while taking 17 runs from her two overs including 3 fours. This came as a contrary to her approach against Dane van Niekerk and Khaka where she scored 10 off 22 and 10 off 18 respectively.
Both Meshram and Raj kept the scoreboard kept going. Raj completed her consecutive half-century by hitting a four to Letsoalao in 70 balls. She went on to hit two more fours against Shabnim Ismail before losing her wicket to Khaka. Her wicket triggered a collapse in the batting line up and India was able to score 56 runs in 10 overs, losing 4 wickets. However, Sikha Pandey (4/34) and Ekta Bisht (3/22) secured an Indian victory by 49 runs. Mithali Raj became Player of the Match for her knock.
73 in 87 balls (10*4, 1*6) vs Bangladesh, ICC Women World Cup Qualifier, 17 Feb 2017
Chasing a modest total of 156 against Bangladesh, India lost Deepti Sharma on 22. Raj opened her account with a single in the 5th ball that she faced. She showed no hurry in that run chase as asking rate never went beyond 4 runs per over. Amidst the single and doubles, Raj hit two boundaries each to Khadija Tul Kubra and Salma Khatun in back to back overs, collecting 17 runs from those two overs. Raj took another 24 balls where she had scored only 8 runs, to hit a boundary against Rumana Ahmed.
In very next ball Ahmed put it wide of Raj, but the ball received the same treatment. Raj completed her 3rd consecutive half-century in 67 balls when she hit her 3rd boundary against Rumana Ahmed. Both Mona Meshram and Raj completed their consecutive hundred run partnership for the 3rd wicket. Mithali ended the match in style by hitting a six to Tul Kubra. India went on to win the match comfortably by 9 wickets with 99 balls to spare. This that victory India had secured its place in the 2017 World Cup.
51 in 66 balls (6*4, 2*6) vs South Africa, Quadrangular series
Jhulan Goswami (3/20) and Sikha Pandey (3/22) played an instrumental role to wrap up the Proteas side on 119. Jhulan Goswami also surpassed Catherin Fitzpatrick as the highest wicket-taker in Women ODI. Chasing a modest total of 120 India lost Deepti Sharma and Punam Raut within 20 overs. Raj who came to the crease in the 17th over took 20 balls to hit her first four to left-arm seamer Moseline Daniels. Despite the fall of Mona Meshram, Raj continued to deal with singles and never hesitated to play the dot balls as there was no such pressure of asking rate.
Despite hitting a four and a six to Nadine De Clark her strike rate didn’t increase due to the number of dot balls she conceded. South African seam attack consisted of variety in form of Ismail, Kapp, Daniels, Klass and even de Clark failed to penetrate the defensive amour of Mithali Raj. Raj completed her half-century by hitting a six to Klass and sealed the victory for India by 7 wickets.
54 in 59 balls (6*4, 1*6) vs South Africa, Women Quadrangular Trophy, 2017
Based on Adrien Steyn’s 83, Trisha Chetty’s 76 and Chole Tryon’s blistering 77 South Africa managed to put a total of 269. India started off well as Punam Raut and Deepti Sharma made a partnership of 83 runs in 88 balls. Indian skipper Mithali raj came to the crease after the fall of 1st wicket. She left the 5th ball of the over by Luss to the keeper and opened her account by driving the next ball to the long-on. While left-arm Seamer Moseline Daniels with her accurate line and pace denied to Raj to score any run from next over, Raj replied that with a huge six over long-on o Sune Luss.
As asking run rate went over 5 runs per over, Raj picked up 10 runs from an over of frontline Protea seamer Marianne Kapp to bring down that run rate. Unlike her previous matches in that tournament, Raj played a smaller number of dot balls and never missed an opportunity to run for a single. In the meantime, India lost Deepti Sharma but India was still in commanding position. Mithali Raj with her new partner Harmanpreet Kaur kept the scoreboard running, but with every passing overs asking run-rate started to create a panic in the batting order.
Raj pushed the 3rd ball of Moseline Daniels over after playing 2 balls defensively to pick up a single and completed her 50 in 53 balls. When Raj got out in a low full toss to Ntozakhe after scoring 54, India still required 71 runs in 103 balls with 7 wickets in hand. But India pressed the self-destruction mode on and kept on losing a wicket. Despite Sikha Pandey’s gallant effort of unbeaten 34 India went on to lose the match by 8 runs. With that victory, South Africa ended India’s unbeaten run of 16 matches in ODI.
62* in 79 balls (10*4) vs South Africa, Women Quadrangular Trophy, 2017
India based on Poonam Yadav (3/32) and Jhulan Goswami (3/22), bundled out South Africa on 156, in the final of the Quadrangular Series. However, chasing a total that Is less than 200, India lost in less than 50 runs. Both the openers, Deepti Sharma and Mona Meshram lost their wickets inside 15 overs. Raj who opened her tally through a single down to fine leg dig down deep while Punam Raut took the responsibility to score the runs. Raj was batting on 16 off 37 balls break the shackle by hitting two fours off Nadine De Klerk in the same over. First, she guided a ball down the third man and then cut a wide short ball through backward point.
Once again, the versatile South African pace battery found it difficult to break the Raj-Raut partnership which took the match away from them. Out of the 10 fours that Raj hit apart from her trademark cover drives, the flick against Shabnim Ismail through mid-wicket proved the worth of Mithali Raj in Indian ODI side. Raj who completed her 6th consecutive half-century and equalled the likes of Lindsey Reeler, Charlotte Edwards and Ellyse Perry through a single to deep mid-wicket, went on to seal the match with a four through mid-wicket. India won the final by 8 wickets and proved that they were ready for the upcoming World Cup.
71 in 73 balls (8*4) vs England, ICC Women World Cup, 24 Jun 2017
India started their World Cup with an extraordinary start against the expectations of many. Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut added 144 runs in 26.5 over, 2nd highest for the opening wicket by India in the world cup against the mighty English attack. When Mandhana (90) was toying with the English bowling on the other hand Punam Raut (86) steadily and calmly paced her and Indian innings so that they wouldn’t lose a wicket. After the fall of a wicket, In-form Mithali came to crease scored a record-breaking consecutive 7th ODI half-century before getting out on the last ball.
Mithali Raj, who initially took her time to set her eyes, became aggressive against the English spin bowling attack comprised with off-spinner Heather Knight, Danny Hazell and left-arm spinner Alex Hartley. This attack conceded 6 fours against Raj. Apart from the boundaries where she fetched 32 runs in 8 balls, Raj scored 39 runs from 65 balls which comprised with 28 dot balls. Raj who troubled the scorer with the very first ball she faced, completed her half-century by a four through long on to Danielle Hazell and helped India put up a total of 281 which remains as the highest score against England. Later, India completed their 4th victory over England in the World Cup by 35 runs.