| Mithali Raj with the WoM trophy, in Cuttack, on Thursday |
Calcutta/Cuttack: Skipper Mithali Raj finally came good with an unbeaten century as Indian women beat arch-rivals Pakistan by six wickets in a seventh-place play-off encounter in the ICC Women’s World Cup Thursday.
Already out of contention after being hammered by Sri Lanka, the Indian women came up with a much improved performance as they first restricted Pakistan to 192 for seven in 50 overs and then reached the target in 46 overs at the Barabati Stadium.
Skipper Mithali, who has struggled with her form, helped herself back into form with an unbeaten 103 off 141 balls with the help of 13 boundaries and a six. The only regret she would have is that her best came when it mattered the least.
Mithali added 87 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand with Reema Malhotra, who remained undefeated on 25. The Indian women were in a spot of bother at 108 for four but the India captain found an able ally in Malhotra as they comfortably won their last game of the tournament.
Mithali also enjoyed couple of useful stands of 43 and 49 with opener Thirush Kamini (26) and Harmanpreet Kaur (16).
Earlier, the decision to bat first after winning the toss didn’t quite work for Pakistan, who were saved to a large extent due to the contrasting half-centuries from Nain Abidi (58) and Nida Dar (68 not out).
The Indians bowlers, led by the economical pace duo of Jhulan Goswami (2/17) and Nagarajan Niranjana (3/35), kept it tight for most part of the 50 overs.
The hosts, who were knocked out of the event after being stunned by minnows Sri Lanka in a must-win group match, were off to a perfect start when they sent back the Pakistani openers with just 28 runs on the board in 11 overs.
But Abidi steadied the rocking boat by forging a 32-run partnership with Bimah Maroof (15). Then came the crucial 80-run stand with Dar, which brought Pakistan back into the match.
Dar was the more aggressive of the two batters, striking seven fours in her 83-ball knock.
Abidi faced 113 balls and struck five fours before being out caught by Kamini off Goswami’s bowling. After the settled partnership was broken, Pakistan could not accelerate in the closing stages faced with a disciplined Indian attack.
For India, Ekta Bisht also chipped in with a wicket even though she was a bit expensive, conceding 50 runs in her nine overs.
For Mithali it wasn’t exactly memorable, for a win coupled with her century came in the seventh place play-off.
“Well this win has not made us happy. We have such a good team. After the way we started against West Indies, we thought we stood a chance. But our sudden exit has left the girls very disappointed.
“The only motivation today was not to finish last. We pulled ourselves well as professional cricketers. The team did well today to bounce back in that sense,’’ said Raj.
Reflecting on her innings, Raj said that she wanted to spend as much time as possible at the crease to guide her side through a tricky chase.
“In the last two innings, I did not spend much time at the crease. Today I had that opportunity. I built a good partnership with Harmanpreet Kaur. The score of 193 was going to be a tough one on this pitch.
“We just needed to have one of us to stay till the end. I am glad that I did that today. I just wanted to bat 50 overs and did not think about my hundred.”