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CWG Semifinals: Elegant Smriti, Brilliant Rana Take India to Finals

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All-rounder Sneh Rana showed nerves of steel by stifling runs in death-overs, as the Indian women’s cricket team was four points ahead of host nation England to enter the Commonwealth Games final on Saturday.

England needed 165 to win and went along with 132 for 3. The hosts needed just 33 runs off 24 balls, but off-spinner Rana (4-0-28-2) bowled extremely well. She gave away just 3 runs in the 18th and 9 runs in the final.

England finished at 160 for 6 and even a final ball maximum from Sophie Ecclestone couldn’t save the day for the hosts with Harmanpreet Kaur’s brigade earning a sweet revenge from the 2017 ODI World Cup final defeat at the Lord’s.

If Smriti Mandhana’s 32-ball-61 was pleasing to the eye, Rana, India’s always ‘MVP’, Deepti Sharma (4-0-18-1) and Pooja Vastrakar (3-0-20-0) didn’t make any errors in line or length under pressure.

The match seemed to have tipped decisively in England’s favor when Harmanpreet introduced Shafali Verma, whose friendly “donkey falls” in the 16th after racking up 15 runs for the home team.

But Deepti and Rana combined only gave up six runs in the 17th and 18th respectively.

Pooja leaked 13 runs left in the 19th, but the Mandhana-Taniya Bhatia combination put in a brilliant run out of the dangerous Nat Sciver to change course.

It was then left to Rana to throw at least five good balls that earned India a medal in the first edition of women’s cricket.

Previously, Mandhana’s elegant but brutal knock of 61, along with Jemimah Rodrigues’ helpful 44 no, propelled India to a healthy 164 for 5 in 20 overs.

Mandhana’s 32-ball attack in the Powerplay put the platform down while Rodrigues, finally living up to her massive potential, improvised well during his 31-ball undefeated stay in the crease.

En route to her stroke, Mandhana also scored the fastest T20 International fifty in women’s cricket at just 23 balls.

A new and improved Deepti came in with 22 out of 20 balls, but India might think they finished 15 runs below par after 64 runs came in in the six Powerplay overs.

The next 14 overs yielded 100 runs as India lost momentum as three wickets fell in quick succession during the middle overs.

Rodrigues and Deepti added 53 invaluable runs to the fourth wicket partnership.

Mandhana’s drives are the most exquisite in women’s cricket and you would rub his eyes in disbelief when the normally raging Shafali Verma (17 of 15 balls) was the silent partner in their opening score of 76 in 7.5 overs.

There were cover drives from Katherine Brunt, sixes from Sears Sciver and Issy Wong, and a lofted one-time spinner Sarah Glenn’s bowling over long-on.

The half century came in just 23 balls, while English bowlers at that stage had no idea.

When Sciver got rid of Mandhana, who was trying to play the lap scoop, the run rate slowed when skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, despite a pair of fours and a six, played a few punts in her run-a-ball 20.

While Mandhana had eight fours and three sixes, Rodrigues had seven fours to her name, mostly taking advantage of the gaps in the arc between point and extra cover.

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