India’s hopes to qualify for the knockout stages of ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 suffered a major jolt after a crushing eight-wicket loss against Australia in their sixth round-robin match. Following a morale-shattering defeat in Bristol, India skipper Mithali Raj has called on her team to step up and improve their performance in ‘virtual quarter-final’ clash against New Zealand on July 15.
On Wednesday, Raj etched her name into history books by surpassing England’s Charlotte Edwards (5,992 runs) as the highest run-getter in women’s ODI cricket. She also reached another milestone by becoming the first woman ever to touch the 6K runs landmark in ODIs.
Mithali played important innings of 69, while opener Poonam Raut also notched up a crucial century. However, it was not enough as Australian skipper Meg Lanning and all-rounder Ellyse Perry scored 76* and 60* respectively to secure an easy win by eight wickets.
"Obviously we now have a decider ahead against New Zealand to get to the semi-finals. As a team, we have to step up, as if we perform again like this it will not be enough," said the India skipper.
"We really have to improve all over the pitch, especially producing more consistency from how we are bowling and fielding," she added.
Australia opted - as it has done throughout the tournament - to open with spin, and Lanning's decision paid off almost immediately.
Smriti Mandhana's scratchy innings came to an end in the fourth over; having already survived top-edging Megan Schutt over the slips, she nicked Ashleigh Gardner behind to Alyssa Healy (making her 50th ODI appearance) for three.
But that brought Raj to the crease needing just 34 runs to break Edwards' record, and alongside Raut, she got to work.
Both started slowly with India taking 18 overs to reach 50, but they accelerated expertly in a 157-run partnership. However, both Raj and Raut (106 off 136 balls) were dismissed as they looked to push their side towards 250.
Instead, India had to make do with 226 for seven, with Perry (two for 37) the pick of the Australian bowlers who combined to claim five wickets for just 17 runs towards the end of the innings.
Nicole Bolton (36) and Beth Mooney (45) got Australia's chase off to a solid start with an opening stand of 62, before Poonam got the breakthrough as Bolton went for a big sweep.
She could only feather Poonam through to Sushma Verma, and while Aussie skipper Lanning oozed confidence - finding the boundary with regularity - Mooney was then run out thanks to a superb Deepti Sharma throw.
But from there on Australia, and particularly Lanning, was in complete control. The skipper brought up her half-century off 55 balls and was supported ably by Perry, with the pair both finishing not out.
Australia assured itself of advancing along with England and South Africa, who won their respective matches against New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
(With Agency Inputs)