I’ll start by just saying it: what a match. India began their run at ICC Women’s World T20 2016 by scoring their highest-ever T20 total: 163 (their previous record was 151, also against Bangladesh, in 2014).
From the first over, opening batters VR Vanitha and Mithali Raj were scoring boundaries and sending Bangladesh scrambling all over the field in an attempt at damage control. Five overs in, the score was over 50, and it seemed like India had won already.
Vanitha, who was on a roll from the start, was dismissed half an hour into the game, bowled by 16-year-old Nahida Akter. The next over saw big hitter Smriti Mandhana return to the stands for a duck.
But the boundaries flew thick and fast, despite more wickets falling. Raj, who had a narrow escape earlier in the game after a dropped catch by bowler Khadiza Tul Kubra, chipped Rumana Ahmed’s delivery straight to Bangladesh captain Jahanara Alam, who was waiting at cover, and exited short of a half-century with 42.
The best part of the match came in the 14th and 15th overs, with two simply gorgeous 6s by Harmanpreet Kaur. Both times, she stepped gracefully down the pitch and swung with perfect timing, sending the ball sailing well beyond the boundary. (Later, when she was adjudged Player of the Match, in her post-match TV interview with Ian Bishop, she said her job was to score as much as she could: the team had set themselves a target of 180.)
Veda Krishnamurthy, playing on home territory like fellow Bangalore player Vanitha, smashed two great 6s of her own, although twice she had close calls that required a decision from the third umpire. India’s innings ended with Veda at 36 runs and Jhulan Goswami at 3.
Bangladesh’s innings went by considerably slower – 5 overs in, the team had only scored 20. India may have vastly outclassed Bangladesh at fielding, though they certainly weren’t flawless: a couple of dropped catches could have ended the match earlier, and better fielding could have kept Bangladesh’s score even lower.
Ayasha Rehman, the team’s vice captain, was the first to go after being bowled by Anuja Patil, who also got middle-order batter Fahima Khatun out later in the match with an lbw (Khatun – a right-arm leg spinner whose beautiful bowling action I could watch in endless loop – got lucky earlier when a missed reverse sweep nearly ended things, with wicket keeper Sushma Verma wasting no opportunities to stump Bangladesh players). Patil also took two catches, sending Sanjida Islam and Rumana Ahmed back off deliveries from Poonam Yadav.
Meanwhile, a fantastic, lightning-speed run out by Deepti Sharma was one of the highlights of the match (during a Shikha Pandey over), dismissing Sharmin Akhter. Bangladesh’s innings was slow and unsteady, and the match ended with India winning by 72 runs. (Watch the highlights of the match here!)
At the post-match press conference, Bangladesh captain Jahanara Alam said India had proved too strong for her side, but she was happy with how her team had responded to the challenge. “We had hoped to restrict India to around 125-130 but their batters were so good,” she said, “I think Rumana and Nahida bowled well and then it was nice to see us get 91 runs against a strong side.”
— Lisa Sthalekar (@sthalekar93) March 15, 2016
With an enthusiastic, if small, crowd that continued to filter in through the match and loud thumping Kannada and Bollywood numbers (not to mention the TV cameras, multiple teams of drummers, and smoke machines), it felt like the opening match of the WT20 tournament was really one big party for India. Not a bad way to begin, eh?