Ever since her One-Day International debut against Pakistan Women in May 2008, Gouher Sultana, the left-arm spinner, has been a consistent performer – 0nly on three occasions has she bowled her full quota of overs without a wicket.
And she boosted her reputation by a notch on Sunday (January 19) as India Women beat Sri Lanka Women by seven wickets in the first match of their five-ODI series at Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam. Sultana returned figures of 4 for 4 in eight overs, improving on her 4 for 30 against England Women in Bangalore in February 2010, to lead India’s campaign.
Sri Lanka opted to bat after winning the toss, but apart from Yasoda Mendis, none of the batters could reach double figures as they were bowled out for 76 in 39.3 overs. India reached their target in 32.3 overs, winning with 105 balls to spare.
Sri Lanka’s troubles started in the fifth over when Jhulan Goswami bowled Chamari Atapattu and then, soon after, had Deepika Rasangika caught behind for four.
Those were important breakthroughs as it was Rasangika’s 84 and her 117-run stand with Atapattu that had set the platform for Sri Lanka’s 138-run win over India the last time the two sides had met, back in the Women’s World Cup in February 2013.
Sri Lanka needed a partnership but that’s when Sultana took over. She first had Shashikala Siriwardene, the Sri Lankan captain, caught by Goswami. N Niranjana joined in, trapping Mendis lbw for 17, and Sultana then sent back Chamari Polgampola. Eshani Kaushalya became Sultana’s third wicket when she was caught by Mithali Raj and Dilani Mandora was her last, out caught by Niranjana.
After the Sultana show, it was over to Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Sneh Rana, the offspinners, to make an impression. The two, both on debut, picked up the last three wickets as Sri Lanka were bowled out for a paltry score.
India went into lunch at 11 for no loss. After the break, Siriwardene dismissed Smriti Mandhana for 13 and Karuna Jain’s torturous stay at the middle – she scored 6 in 42 deliveries – was brought to an end by Chandima Gunaratne, who finished with impressive figures of 1 for 16 in ten overs.
Anagha Deshpande made 23 before being stumped off Oshadi Ranasinghe, but Raj, the captain, and Harmanpreet Kaur ensured that there was no more damage.
Raj, on her comeback to international cricket after having been rested for the Bangladesh series, top scored with an unbeaten 34 that included six fours.
The second match will be played at the same venue on January 21.
Sri Lanka Women 76 in 39.3 overs (Jhulan Goswami 2-16, Gouher Sultana 4-4, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2-11) lost to India Women 80/3 in 32.3 overs (Anagha Deshpande 23, Mithali Raj 34*) by seven wickets.