Potchefstroom: India’s quest for a maiden world title in women’s cricket finally came to an end on Sunday when they defeated England by seven wickets in a low-scoring finale to emerge as the winner of the inaugural ICC U19 Women’s T20 World Cup at the JB Marks Oval here.
Nearly 18 years after India first made it to the final of a World Cup through the 50-over event in 2005, Shafali Verma & Co produced a superb bowling performance coupled with some outstanding fielding to bowl out England for just 68.
Fast bowler Titas Sadhu, off-spinner Archana Devi and leg-spinner Parshavi Chopra were accurate in their line, and length and found enough help to pick two wickets each. Shafali, left-arm spinners Mannat Kashyap and Sonam Yadav took a scalp each in a dominating bowling performance.
The fielding, despite a few blips, was athletic with some exceptional catches taken as England never got going with the bat. In chasing 69, on a slow pitch and aiding spinners, India lost Shafali and Shweta Sehrawat in the first four overs.
But Soumya Tiwari (24 not out) and Gongadi Trisha (24) stitched a vital partnership and shared a 46-run stand for the third wicket to complete the chase in 14 overs and give India their first-ever World Cup title in women’s cricket.
Titas made a breakthrough on the fourth ball of the innings by having Liberty Heap mistime the heave and give her a simple return catch. Apart from Titas and Archana keeping things tight, India were also sharp with their ground fielding.
Niamh Holland walked across in a bid to play a scoop off Archana. Instead, the bowler found turn and bounce outside off and made the ball crash into the stumps. On the last ball of the over, Archana gave some width and flight to entice captain Grace Scrivens in dancing down the pitch and loft over long-off.
The left-handed batter fell into the trap and was caught by Trisha running in from long-off and making the dive to complete the catch. India could have got their fourth wicket in the Power-play if keeper Richa Ghosh hadn’t dropped a regulation catch of Ryana Macdonald Gay on nought, coming off Titas in the fifth over.
But the right-arm fast-bowler bounced back in the seventh over by castling Seren Smale with an inswinger. While all England batters perished after struggling, Ryana began to hit boundaries against spinners by dancing down the pitch to loft twice while using her crease to hit a delicate late cut.
But England continued to sink as Parshavi trapped Charis Pavely lbw on the stroke of drinks break at the halfway mark. In the 12th over, Parshavi struck again as Ryana looked to loft over off-side, but Archana dived full length in the air to take a one-handed stunner.
Two overs later, Soumya produced a sharp direct hit from cover to run out Josie Groves at the non-striker’s end. Shafali entered the wicket-takers column in the 15th over by enticing Hannah Baker to reach out to a delivery outside off-stump and was stumped quickly by Richa.
Alexa Stonehouse’s 25-ball stay at the crease ended in the 17th over when she chipped straight to cover off Mannat. Sonam ended England’s innings on the first ball of the 18th over by taking a return catch off Sophia Smale’s tame chip.
In the replay, Shafali, who turned 19 on Saturday, began the chase by flicking a down-leg delivery from Hannah through fine leg for four, before lofting Sophia over long-off for a humungous six in the next over. But in a bid to go big off Hannah in the third over, Shafali mistimed the chip and gave a low catch to mid-on.
Shweta got her first four by driving on an overpitched delivery off Grace Scrivens in the fourth over. But on the very next ball, she tried to work through the on-side, but the turn in from Grace took the top edge to short fine leg, departing for five.
With some tension around the run-chase, Soumya eased it with a well-timed lofted drive over extra cover off Hannah in the fifth over. On the very next ball, she earned a reprieve as Grace dropped a sharp chance at slip.
Through some tight bowling and sharp fielding, England were restricting India’s runs. But Soumya and Trisha kept the scoreboard ticking by taking singles. Soumya also got a boundary off Sophia in the eighth over by flicking past the keeper and replays showed Grace’s elbow was in contact with the rope while pushing the ball away.
When Josie dropped short and wide in the next over, Soumya was quick to cut through point for a boundary. Trisha, on the other hand, was classy in pulling Ellie Anderson on the front foot and back foot through square leg for back-to-back boundaries in the 12th over.
She then creamed Alexa Stonehouse through a delightful drive-through extra cover in the 13th over. But in a bid to go for glory, Trisha stepped out for a cross-bat swipe and was castled by Alexa. Soumya finished off the chase with a brace and then took a single through point to give India their first global trophy in women’s cricket and give the whole of India a day to remember.