Batting heroics, Gayakwad five-for seal India's semi-final berth
India women 265 for 7 (Raj 109, Krishnamurthy 70, Kaur 60, Kasperek 3-45) beat New Zealand women 79 (Satterthwaite 26, Gayakwad 5-15, Deepti 2-26) by 186 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Suzie Bates' decision to bowl first in a virtual quarter-final seemed to work out perfectly for the first hour. But Mithali Raj's sixth ODI hundred - a decidedly positive innings, formed on the foundation of two century partnerships, with Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy - lifted India to 265. It was a total that became increasingly daunting with every passing over of New Zealand's chase.
They found themselves three-down in the 11th over and after a brief, ineffective resistance from Amy Satterthwaite and Sophie Devine, they unraveled quickly to lose by 186 runs. Left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad, brought in to replace Ekta Bisht after warming the bench for six games, finished with a career-best 5 for 15.
Raj admitted that she too would've bowled if the toss had gone her way. But when she came out to bat, though, it didn't appear like the conditions played on her mind despite India losing Punam Raut and Smriti Mandhana early. The wickets were more to do with New Zealand's discipline than prodigious movement either in the air or off the pitch. In fact, the first signs of swing came when Suzie Bates came on in the 11th over. And even those gentle awayswingers didn't cause Raj any trouble.
She creamed drives all day long, to the covers ring for a while, but eventually through them. Raj's conscious effort to keep her strike rate in the vicinity of 80 shone through. Her fifty against Australia on Wednesday - 69 off 114 - was called out for lack of intent, and it was clear she wanted to put it to rest. So, she did. This didn't necessarily mean India were any quicker. In fact, the run-rate hadn't even crept past four-per-over at the end of the 30th.
Raj was the aggressor, but at the other end was the promoted Harmanpreet whose longest innings of the tournament up until Saturday was a 23-ball knock against Pakistan. When she middled them, they sounded sweet, but she struggled to find the gaps. And so, once again, it looked like India were falling to the old trap of relying too much on boundaries. And the feeling was amplified when they lost two wickets in the first two overs of the batting Powerplay. Harmanpreet, who battled through injured left hand to make a half-century, chipped one back to Kasperek, Deepti Sharma fell to a stunning Rachel Priest catch, and 153 for 2 turned to 154 for 4 in the space of nine balls.
India set themselves up for 250, but losing quick wickets left them with the possibility of finishing around 230 again. Raj dropped anchor and Veda Krishnamurthy looked awkward, poking and prodded to 11 off 16, before two dominant hits off Amelia Kerr in the 43rd over injected momentum. Satterthwaite dropped her on 32 at the start of the 46th, Lea Tahuhu's chest-high full toss offered her a free-hit soon after, and by the end of the over, she had motored to 46. The first ball of the next over was drilled flat over long-on and New Zealand were now visibly anxious. Fielders ran in from the boundary and let balls bounce over them and different varieties of length balls were served in the buffet.
Raj hit one boundary after the 39th over, and it came in the last over. By then, she had trotted through to her sixth ODI century. Both her and Krishnamurthy fell in that last over, but India had put up 265. Both their innings were the deflating kind - Krishnamurthy's an ungrateful butchering, Raj's a controlled suffocation.
And Krishnamurthy was there again, during New Zealand's chase. Bates, looking to flick Shikha Pandey's first delivery, found the leading edge to first slip. New Zealand couldn't find a way back - Priest hit one back to Jhulan Goswami in the next over, but the old cricketing cliche of "chasing pressure" was upon New Zealand before they could get their eye in. The ball was swinging now. And drifting, and dipping, and turning. Satterthwaite hung in, like her role demands, but No. 4 Katey Martin looked out of place all along; she'd seen one too many dot balls, and was promptly down the pitch to hit one to Kaur at midwicket.
New Zealand's hopes rested on Satterthwaite and Devine; they seemed to know this as they decided caution would be the best way forward. Raj, sensing this, unleashed her spinners on the pair. India rattled through 17 overs in an hour. The score was 51, the required rate 6.51. Gayakwad swooped in on Satterthwaite's vulnerability and got one to spin away from her after she had stepped down. That was the start of New Zealand's crash.
The nail found the coffin in the 20th over. Gayakwad switched to over the wicket, tied Devine down to three dot balls, then pushed one wide. It was meant to turn away from the big slash through the off side, and that's exactly what Devine did. It was too far away. She sliced it, teasingly behind Deepti at extra cover. It was India's day, and this wasn't getting away from the 19-year-old. She got under it, reached for it with a dive and held on. New Zealand had nothing further to offer against Gayakwad.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo