Australia defeated India by 11 runs in the final of the Tri-Nation Women's T20 Series played at the Junction Oval Ground in Melbourne. It was a closely fought encounter with India losing its way towards the back end of their innings. Batting first, Australia posted a score of 155 runs for the lost of 6 wickets in their allotted 20 overs and then bowled out India for 144 runs off the final ball of the innings.
Beth Mooney was the top-scorer for Australia with an unbeaten 71 as she carried her bat through the innings. Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad bagged a couple of wickets each from the Indian side. Smriti Mandhana was the only worthwhile contributor for India in the run chase scoring a quick-fire 66 but the Indian innings was derailed post her dismissal with Jess Jonassen running through the lower order finishing with figures of 5 wickets for a miserly 12 runs.
Following are the 3 main reasons for India's defeat in the final.
#3 Over-reliance on Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur
The Indian women's team is over-reliant on Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur on the batting front. The tri-series batting averages suggests the same with Mandhana and Kaur averaging 43.2 and 39.33 respectively with the next highest being Deepti Sharma with an average of 21. Although India have found new batting talents with the rise of the explosive Shafali Verma and the cheeky Jemimah Rodrigues, they are relatively inexperienced and lack the consistency to take India home on their own.
The experienced Veda Krishnamurthy is very inconsistent due to which she was even dropped from the playing XI in the last couple of matches of the series. The young Richa Ghosh is a good find but it will take her time to understand how to pace the innings.
#2 Fielding Lapses at crucial junctures
The Indian team's fielding was at best average as they were pegged back by dropped catches, missed run-outs and misfields at crucial stages of the game. Beth Mooney, Australia's top scorer, had a charmed life as was let off a couple of times before she had reached a score of 20. Rajeshwari Gayakwad dropped her on 12, a relatively simple catch at short third-man as she failed to judge the flight of the ball while running backwards.
In the very next over, Mooney should have been run out but Harmanpreet Kaur missed a direct hit from cover and the throw was too hard for Radha Yadav to gather and break the stumps. There was another chance for a catch behind the wicket although it was a tough one as the ball had taken a big deflection due to a thick edge.
Ellyse Perry was a beneficiary of a missed stumping as well although it didn't prove costly as she got dismissed immediately thereafter. India could count themselves unlucky on one occasion when the Australian captain Meg Lanning would have been run out but for the ball getting deflected by the television box at the base of the stumps when it was about to crash into the stumps. Apart from these dropped catches and missed run-outs, there were a few misfields as well which turned out to be the difference in the end result.
#1 Lack of striking power down the order
This has been the biggest area of concern for India for the last few years. India does not possess the requisite striking power down the order that other teams possess. The Indian lower order tends to succumb more often than not under the pressure of mounting required run rate. This was the case in the heartbreaking 50 over World Cup final loss in 2017 as well. In today's match India required 45 runs in the last 6 overs with 7 wickets in hand, which is considered a relatively easy target in the modern day.
But once India lost Mandhana followed by Kaur in the very next over, there was no fight and the Indian lower order was blown away and went on to lose the match by 11 runs. In contrast Australia scored 51 runs in the last 6 overs of their innings.
India need to work on these areas of concerns in the forthcoming Women's T20 World Cup to have a shot at the title. That would be a big fillip to the already growing women's game in India.