After taking a note from hosts West Indies, whose decision to bowl first against Australia in the first semifinal tonight failed big time, India won the toss and decided to bat first in their semifinal against England at North Sound in Antigua. Going into the match without veteran Mithali Raj on a slow wicket, India got off to a cautious start, scoring just three of the first over off Anya Shrubsole. Smriti Mandhana's attacking innings of 34 off just 23 balls upfront, set India a good platform as the team got to 43 for 0 in the first six overs.
Mandhana got out on the first ball after the powerplay, holing out to Ecclestone who caught her off her own bowling. India struggled to score runs, scoring just ten runs in the next 15 balls, after which Tanya Bhatia holed out to Heather Knight. With the team struggling at 53 for 2 after 8.4 overs, captain Harmanpreet Kaur was just the person the team wanted to walk onto the pitch. Kaur did not take time in assessing the pitch and played accordingly.
Runs were not easy to come on an ultra-slow wicket, which looked slower because of the amount of flight most women spinners put into the ball. After four boundary-less overs, Jemimah Rodriguez finally found the gap between point and short third man, followed by a late cut off the last ball of Scivier's over - the 13th over of the innings. Harman hit a six off the very next ball off Gordon, and just when both the players looked in the right nick, a tight throw from Tanya Beaumont at backward point gave England the prize wicket of Rodriguez.
Veda Krishnamurthy failed to adapt to the slowness of the wicket, falling for just 2 to the slow left-arm bowling of Gordon in the 16th over. India suffered their biggest setback when Harmanpreet tried hitting a six on the fifth ball of the very same over, providing Sciver with an easy catch to leave India reeling at 94 for 5. Hemalatha fell to Knight in the very next over as India were reduced to 99 for 6 in 16.5 overs. Anuja Patil followed the very next ball, falling to a great diving catch by Lauren Winfield at long on.
England's sensational night in the field continued with Danielle Wyatt direct-hitting Radha Yadav out on the first ball of the penultimate over. Arundhati Reddy provided some momentum with a boundary off the penultimate ball of that over, but Sophie Ecclestone gave nothing away in the final over as India were bowled out for 112 with three run outs. Losing their last eight wickets for 23 overs was never going to be easy to digest.
England did not get off to an auspicious start in their innings either, Beaumont holing out to Radha Yadav in just the second over. Amy Jones and Danielle Wyatt looked to stabilize things, but the latter fell in the fifth over to Deepti Sharma. Amy Jones and Nat Sciver took charge of things, playing most of the balls off the back foot, and muscling them off the ground rather than trying to clear the boundary too often.
The two made the pitch look much easier to bat, but the highlight was their ability to pressurize the fielders with their smart and swift running. By the 15th over, England were already the favourites. But, they did not give anything away and kept the momentum up without taking the scorecard pressure. The pitch might actually have eased out, but it was the pressure that spoiled the line and length of the Indian bowlers.
Harmanpreet Kaur could have attacked more, but shrewdness was the call of the hour, given that India were defending a very low total. India's game today did not match the standards they had set in the tournament up to this point. India's batters, specifically, could not hold their nerve yet again against England, just like last year's World Cup Final at Lord's, under much different conditions albeit.
England have set up yet another World Cup final with their traditional rivals Australia, who will be appearing in their fifth straight World T20 final. Mithali Raj, who hinted at retirement from international T20 after this tournament, will have to wait a bit longer for her hands on an ICC trophy. The Indian team better not lose their heart after coming so close to winning three big tournaments, including last two year's World Cups and the Asia Cup this year.