An all-round New Zealand Women made a strong statement in their six-wicket win over defending champions Australia in Nagpur on Monday (March 21). After the spinners kept Australia down to 103 for 8, Suzie Bates’s side romped home to victory with 22 balls to spare to remain undefeated in their three Group A games.
With the mercury almost touching 40ºC and the pitch living up to Nagpur’s reputation, both teams got a real taste of Asian conditions, but the New Zealand spinners made the most of it. Leigh Kasperek’s three wickets and Morna Nielsen’s tight bowling, where she conceded just four runs in four overs, strangled Australia before Rachel Priest got New Zealand off to a flyer and kept their ICC Women’s World T20 2016 campaign on track.
Australia had lost the toss in the last ten T20 Internationals and Meg Lanning, the captain, had no hesitation batting first when she finally won one. The batters, however, failed to repay her faith. New Zealand’s strategy to open with spin at both ends could not have worked any better, despite the ball not turning much. Kasperek, the offspinner, removed both openers in the second over off consecutive deliveries.
Australia changed their batting order, sending out Erin Osborne at No.3 and Lanning at 4. But the decision backfired when a misunderstanding led to Lanning being run out and Osborne followed, both for nought. Australia were in danger of eclipsing India’s record of the lowest Power Play score of 7, but finally limped to 10 for 4 in the first six.
Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell had to use all their considerable experience to mount a recovery, as both Nielsen and Kasperek (3-13) were bowled out by the eighth over. It took the introduction of Erin Bermingham, the legspinner, for the pitch to reveal its true colours. She castled Blackwell with a delivery that pitched around leg and hit off.
When she was taken out of the attack, Perry and Jess Jonassen attacked the medium pacers and the part-time spin of Amy Satterthwaite.
Jonassen rode her luck, caught off a no-ball when on 12, and dropped on 13 and 23. Perry, meanwhile, used her feet to nullify the spin and showed great maturity in her knock of 42. The two shared a partnership of 49 priceless runs in just 37 balls, on the back of which Australia finished on 103 for 8.
Sophie Devine, in addition to running out Lanning, took a brilliant diving catch at long off at the backend of the innings. She also joined the club of 1000 runs and 50 wickets in T20Is when she trapped Perry leg before.
Australia’s hopes of a quiet start and some early wickets were dashed by positive batting by the White Ferns openers. Bates, the captain, and Priest made batting look easy on a slow wicket. They were unafraid to loft anything full or short, against both pace and spin, and belted 44 runs in the Power Play.
Priest was the more aggressive of the two, hitting five fours in her 34 off 27 balls. Bates fell under 30 for the first time in eight innings and New Zealand lost two more wickets in their chase. The experienced Satterthwaite and Devine – who fell two short of the target – guided them to safety.