Sharma, Vastrakar and the partnership that mattered the most

The two Indian all-rounders showed immense patience, testing the Australian bowling attack, and ensured the hosts were in a strong position
Deepti and Pooja. (Photo | PTI)
Deepti and Pooja. (Photo | PTI)

MUMBAI: There is a Mumbai University Ground just next to Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. If you get out of the Media box, you will not miss any action going on that ground, even if you want to avoid it. On day two of the one-off  Test between India and Australia, a group of people were playing a friendly game of Tug of War on the ground.

One was wearing a red shirt and the other in blue. It lasted longer than any such games one would have witnessed. Both sides, held their nerves, not letting go of the rope. The string put in the middle of the rope was not going anywhere. Amidst the great competitive challenge and loud cheering, the side wearing blue shirts hesitated a bit. Just for a split second and before they could gain any control, the red side was celebrating.

That is exactly what happened in the middle of Wankhede in the final session of day two. After breaking a mammoth partnership of 113 runs between Jemimah Rodrigues and Richa Ghosh, for a while, it felt like Australia had complete control over the proceedings.

From 259 for three, India were reduced to 274 for seven, with Ashleigh Gardner taking three of four wickets. In walked Pooja Vastrakar to bat with Deepti Sharma at nine.

First of all, having someone like Vastrakar, who is known for her audacious power game, at nine is a luxury India had. And at the same time with a lead of 56 runs, India wanted to pile on the lead to serve up a double purpose. One, to build as much lead as they could, and another, to tire the Australians, who never used a replacement fielder in their bowling innings. And it worked.

They batted and batted. Australia threw every bowler at them. From Gardner's off-spin to Tahlia McGrath's medium pace, from Lauren Cheatle's left-arm pace to Jess Jonassen's left-arm spin. Kim Garth, Annabel Sutherland, Alana King.

You name it, Sharma and Vastrakar dealt with it and with no rush at all. And even at the end of day three, it was still the only session, where no wicket fell. They took the game away from Australia, with precision and frustrated the opponents more than they could have imagined.

"Honestly, it was very important for us to put that partnership, because we lost a few wickets very quickly in that time period," Sharma told the media after the third day's play. "We just wanted to get through the sessions. The talk was about building the partnership and later it was just surviving that last half hour of play. And because the thinking was clear that we wanted to stay on the crease, it got easier for us," she added.

On day three, Australia fought hard to wipe off that lead of 187 runs. To their credit, they went past it, but by doing that they lost their top four batters, including Ellyse Perry, who was looking in supreme touch. The battle is on. Unlike the Test against England, this fixture will go to the fourth day. And we have to thank the Sharma-Vastrakar duo for that.

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The New Indian Express