Smriti shines in the Day-Night Test to remember

By Kersi Meher-Homji

The historic day-night (pink ball) women’s cricket Test between India and Australia at Gold Coast ended in a draw but the Indian girls held all the aces.

Sent in to bat on a pitch with uneven bounce, India played with determination despite thunder and lightning stopping play at night on the first two days. Opening batters Smriti Mandhana (127 runs) and 17 year-old Shafali Verma (31) put on 93 runs.

Smriti continued with her stoke play adding 102 more runs with Punam Raut (36 runs). Punam was lauded for her decision to walk back to the pavilion despite the umpire declaring her not out. Her batting partner Smriti later said, “First we reacted like, ”˜Oh, why did she do that?’ But, then, of course, it’s something that we all respect a lot. I think she has earned a lot of respect from all the team-mates that she actually walked out. And I don’t know how many people would actually do that in cricket at the moment ”“ men’s or women’s. Nowadays people walk out because there is DRS (Decision Review System). But when there is no DRS and to walk out… I don’t know. So, definitely she has earned a lot of respect from us.”

Smriti recorded the highest Test score for a visiting batter in Australia. Her 127 is the second Test hundred for India against Australia and the first ever in Australia. Sandhya Agarwall’s 134 in 1984 was the first century for India against Australia.

Back to the match. Skipper Mithali Raj scored 30, Deepti Sharma 66, her highest in Test cricket and India declared the innings closed at 8 for 377. Ellyse Perry took two wickets becoming the third women’s player to claim 300 international wickets.

In reply, Australia started poorly against the pace of Jhulan Goswami and were in danger of being forced to follow on. But they were rescued by Perry scoring 68 not out and Ashleigh Gardner 51. Australia boldly declared at 9 for 241 although they were 136 runs behind.

Indian batters should have played more aggressively in an effort to win. They declared at 3 for 135 at 3.64 runs per over. The top scorer was teenager Shafali Verma who made 52, her third Test 50 in four innings. Much is expected from her.

Set a near impossible win target of 272 runs off 32 overs at an almost 9 runs an over, Australia scored 2 for 36 and the match was declared a draw.

This Test will be remembered as a match of many declarations; India declaring at 8 for 377 and 3 for 135, Australia at 9 for 241.

For scoring 127 and 31, Smriti Mandhana was made Player of the Match. At the presentation she said, “It was definitely one of my top three innings. It was the most nervous night I’ve ever had, the first day of the Test match. Slightly lucky with that no-ball [when I was] on 80, that cleared my mindset that now that I’ve got a chance I’ve to make it count. As a player it’s the topmost thing to wear whites and go out. Today was a different situation as compared to the first day, it only happens in Test cricket. We don’t have much time, just three days before the T20Is. I did have a slight hit-out today like a T20 match. We will rest for a day and then try to hit a few shots [at the nets].”

The attractive looking Perry, aged 30, reached quite a few milestones in this Test. Playing her 250th international, she claimed wicket number 300 when she dismissed Pooja Vastrakar (13 runs). She also became the first Australian cricketer ”” male or female ”” to score 5000 runs and claim 300 wickets in international matches. Perry joins India’s veteran Jhulan Goswami (339 wickets) and England’s Katherine Brunt (301) as the only women to have claimed 300 or more international scalps.

The three Twenty20 Internationals will be played at Gold Coast on 7th, 9th and 11th October. Don’t forget to watch these matches on TV.

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