CHENNAI: It was a knock that reminded many of her 171 against Australia in the semifinal of the Women’s 50-over World Cup in England last year. But Friday’s effort will be written in the history books, as it was the first by an Indian woman in T20Is. Harmanpreet Kaur once again rose to the occasion when it mattered, with a 51-ball 103 against New Zealand in the World T20 opener in Guyana. India posted 194/5 — their second highest — and won the clash by 34 runs.
Six months ago, India’s T20 skipper was struggling for consistency. Before this tournament, she had hit 480 runs with two fifties in the 20 matches she played this year. But the right-hander is a freak player. Just ahead of the Caribbean challenge, she showed signs of coming good with knocks of 45, 57, 41, 18 against Australia A. Even though they came against a second string of players, it was clear that she had got her mojo back. In the warm-up fixture against England on Wednesday that India won, she hit an unbeaten 63 off 32.
And in the first game, she tore into the New Zealand attack, hitting eight sixes and seven fours. Winning the toss and electing to bat, India lost three wickets under six overs. Wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia went in as opener with the seasoned Smriti Mandhana, but both threw their wickets away. Debutant Dayalan Hemalatha, who came in at No 4 ahead of Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet, survived only seven balls.
India were in a spot of bother when Harmanpreet came in. However, the captain and Jemimah Rodrigues — who hit a 45-ball 59 — had other ideas, adding 134 runs for the fourth wicket in just under 13 overs.
Harmanpreet got into the groove with two sixes off Jess Watkin in the 10th over, after which India’s total read 76 for three. The team added a staggering 118 runs in the last 10 overs, thanks to a flurry of boundaries and sixes by Harmanpreet.
The big-hitting all-rounder played shots on all sides of the wicket, and was most effective in the long-off, long-on and deep mid-wicket region. The 100-run partnership was up in quick time, after the duo took 16 off an over in the last 10. That was just one of the big overs.
After posting a massive total, India restricted New Zealand to 160/9, courtesy three-wicket hauls by leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and off-spinner Hemalatha. For New Zealand, Suzie Bates top-scored with 67. One of the takeaways for India apart from the captain’s century, was young Jemimah showing maturity.
Brief scores: India women 194/5 in 20 ovs (Harmanpreet 103, Jemimah 59) bt New Zealand women 160/9 in 20 ovs (Bates 67; Poonam 3/33, Hemalatha 3/26).