Shafali, Rodrigues hit top gear as India stroll into Asian Games semis


Match abandoned India 173 for 2 (Shafali 67, Rodrigues 47, Mahirah 1-28) vs Malaysia 1 for 0

It was a mismatch of epic proportions on paper, and Malaysia hardly posed a fight to change that notion on the field. India eventually strolled into the semi-finals of the women’s cricket event Asian Games in Hangzhou on account of having higher seeding after rain had the final say, with the match abandoned two balls into Malaysia’s steep chase.

India flexed their might from ball one after being put into bat with rain looming. Smriti Mandhana‘s early elegance gave way to Shafali Verma‘s brutality in a rain-reduced 15-overs-a-side contest that she top scored with 67. Jemimah Rodrigues lent her own signature touch game to the innings to make an unbeaten 47 as India blasted 171 for 2, including 113 off 9.2 overs after the rain break.

Richa Ghosh, who wasn’t part of the Bangladesh tour, added the finishing touches with a cameo 21 not out off just seven deliveries. She hit 18 off those courtesy three fours and a six in the final over off medium pacer Mas Elysa, with the highlight being a bottom-handed shovel inside-out over extra cover off a yorker-length delivery.

There was a brief flutter in the Indian camp late in the innings with smiles giving way to genuine concern when Shafali was hit on her right forearm at the non-striker’s end by a Rodrigues’ cross-batted swat. It brought the physio in to attend to her. Shafali soon resumed her innings, but was out lbw later in the same over, the 13th, to Elysa playing across the line to a straight delivery.

The basis of Shafali’s innings was her power game, which she brought out time and again by moving over to the offside to try and access the arc between long-on and deep midwicket where the boundary was a relatively short 45 metres. Malaysia didn’t help themselves by feeding full tosses and slot balls to Shafali that she effortlessly kept swinging across without any trace of worry.

Malaysia failed to string together three dots even once in the innings and the only semblance of comfort they had was when Mandhana fell. She was early into a pull that she managed to lob to point off a leading edge after being cramped for room in the sixth over off medium pacer Mahirah Ismail.

The celebrations were boisterous after the catch was taken. It was crucial too given Mandhana had looked in pristine touch until then in her 15 previous deliveries off which she hit five fours. But any sense of relief they may have had at picking up a wicket dissipated as Shafali took charge and ran them ragged along with Rodrigues and Ghosh.

Bangladesh could potentially be up next for India in the semi-final if they beat Hong Kong in their quarter-final fixture later in the afternoon. That will set up tantalising prospect for Mandhana’s team (Harmanpreet Kaur will sit out of the game due to a two-match suspension), given the recent history between the two sides.

On it, Bangladesh proved they were no pushovers during the recent tour in July, where they won two matches and tied one across six white-ball games. Off it, there was a huge fracas over umpiring that boiled over into a few nasty exchanges between the teams.

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