White Ferns clinch a thriller

The Free Press Journal - - SPORTS -

The In­dian women's team al­most pulled off a dra­matic win but failed to score a bound­ary in the fi­nal de­liv­ery to lose the third and fi­nal T20 In­ter­na­tional against New Zealand by a mere two runs here on Sun­day.

Chas­ing 162 for a win, star open­ing batswoman Sm­riti Mand­hana took the In­dian team on course for a con­so­la­tion win with a ca­reerbest knock of 86 from 52 balls but the vis­it­ing side failed to build on her scin­til­lat­ing knock to end their in­nings at 159 for 4.

With the three-match series al­ready lost af­ter de­feats in the first and sec­ond T20Is, In­dia sur­pris­ingly named se­nior player Mithali Raj in the play­ing eleven and she con­trib­uted 24 not out from 20 balls af­ter com­ing to bat at the fall of cap­tain Har­man­preet Kaur (2).

But she failed to hit a four from the fi­nal de­liv­ery bowled by Leigh Kasperek as In­dia lost the match by two runs.

In­dia needed 16 runs from the fi­nal over and Raj and Deepti Sharma (21 not out) raised hopes of a re­mark­able win by hit­ting bound­aries in the first and third de­liv­er­ies but were left to hit a four off the last ball.

Cap­tain Har­man­preet Kaur, whose in­dif­fer­ent form has hurt the team, said she was dis­ap­pointed at the re­sult and the 0-3 series de­feat. In­dia had won the three­match ODI series 2-1 be­fore this T20 con­test. "We are dis­ap­pointed to lose the series like this, we could have done bet­ter. We have a lot of work to do," she said af­ter scor­ing just two on Sun­day.

She had scored 17 and 5 in the first two matches.

"In T20 In­ter­na­tion­als we need to make im­prove­ments in the fi­nal 10-over bat­ting. More im­por­tantly, we need to sort out the bat­ting or­der.

"But there are positives from this series like the bat­ting of Smirti and Jemimah as well as the per­for­mance of bowlers," she added. Mand­hana, who had scored 58 and 36 in the first two matches, con­tin­ued her red-hot form by notch­ing up her eight T20 fifty and sec­ond of the series as she dom­i­nated against New Zealand bowlers yet again.

With one-down Jemimah Ro­drigues (21), the other batswoman who has been in fine touch, In­dia reached 92 for 2 at the half­way stage. But af­ter that, In­dia could not force the pace of scor­ing and with cap­tain Kaur fail­ing to make a mark, the ask­ing rate kept on climb­ing. When Mand­hana was out in the 16th over, In­dia needed 39 from 4.3 overs which was not an easy job. Raj and Deepti could not get too many bound­aries and they were left with 16 to win from the fi­nal over.

New Zealand's Leigh Kasperek (C) is hugged by cap­tain Amy Sat­terth­waite

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