Mithali leads India to finish on a high
Cuttack, Feb 7 : India finished its time in the ICC Women's World Cup 2013 on a high with a six-wicket victory over Pakistan and ultimately become the seventh ranked team in the world.
Watched by a lively crowd of over 6000 spectators, Mithali Raj hard-fought century secured India its victory. India lost the toss and were put into field first and despite having had a poor performance with the bat through the group stages, Pakistan, put on its best batting display of the tournament so far.
Nain Abidi and Nida Dar were the pick of the line-up scoring 58 and 68 respectively, the pair added 80 runs for the third-wicket partnership before Nain departed off the bowling of the willowy Jhulan Goswami. Niranjana Nagarajan proved to be the pick of the Indian bowlers, snaffling 3-35, including the key wickets of Bismah Maroof, Asmavis Iqbal and captain Sana Mir. In response, India lost Punam Raut early on, when she was declared leg-before to the bowling of Qanita Jalil, it was then up to Mithali Raj and Thirush Kamini to steady the India run-chase. Raj held the innings together even as she lost Kamini with the score of 51.
Thereafter Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur added 49 runs for the fourth wicket. Despite losing Sulakshana Naik soon, Raj guided her side home in the company of Reema Malhotra. The Raj-Malhotra combine added an unbeaten 87 runs for the fifth wicket.
Pakistan captain Sana Mir was disappointed to end the tournament at the last position: "It would have been good if we had finished on a high note. I am happy with the way batters showed up today. So far the bowlers have been the only positive for us." Sana said the side did not have too many positives to take away from the tournament, except the bowling: "I did not have to motivate the side because we were playing India. We have not played a lot against India, so when the opportunity does come along we are always up for it. We are better than this. Under pressure we have not done well as a side. If our batters had performed better throughout we would have won more games."
The Pakistan captain was hopeful that the side has learnt a lot from the tournament despite not being able to win a single game. "We last played Australia and New Zealand in the ICC Women's World Cup 2009 and then now. Also when you play for 50 overs against the top sides your fitness is tested. We need to work a lot on our fitness to last 50 overs. Overall fitness was the biggest difference between us and the other sides in the tournament,'' said Sana.
On her part, Sana also thanked the host, Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) for all the hospitality:"The way the people supported us was heart-warming. It was a tough tour, but we have enjoyed ourselves. The OCA, its academy, the support staff have all been really helpful and have gone out of the way to look after us."
For the India captain it was a bitter sweet moment, 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 on the crease to guide her side through a tricky chase: "In the last two innings, I did not spend much time on 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."
Raj also sounded positive about the make-up of her side in the coming years.
"The only thing with our side is that once we falter, we keep faltering. We are not able to make a comeback like say what a England did after they lost to Sri Lanka. That is the one thing that is lacking in this team.
"But if you look at skill we are one of the best sides. We have some extremely talented cricketers, good medium pace attack. Maybe one thing is that the spinners were off colour throughout which hurt us. The pitches did not suit our spinners as well, but they could have been more positive. We need to be more consistent."
Scores in Brief
At Barabati Stadium
Pakistan 192-7, 50 overs (Nain 58, Nida 68 not out; Goswami 2-17, Niranjana 3-35)
India 195-4, 46 overs (Raj 103 not out, Kamini 26)
India won by six wickets