It was a befitting end to India Women’s first ‘home season’ of Test cricket in 28 years as they recorded a historic maiden victory over a venerable Australia in the one-off Test in Mumbai on December 24.
On the final day, India produced their best both with the ball and bat to thwart a spirited Australian resurgence, first sparking a collapse in the visitors’ ranks to snaffle the remaining five wickets for 28 and then knocking off a meagre target of 75 without much ado to script an eight-wicket win.
Smriti Mandhana (38 not out) and Jemimah Rodrigues (12 not out) embraced each other in a warm hug when the objective of beating a world-dominating side was accomplished, bringing back memories of India’s shushed reaction in 2008 in Australia when MS Dhoni’s side beat the hosts and made a statement by not indulging in any passionate celebrations.
Playing more than one Test at home for the first time since 1995, there was hardly a moment when the team put a foot wrong.
India Women’s stuck to the promise of playing ‘positive cricket’, weathered all mini storms along the way and largely dictated terms against fancied opponents in Australia and England.
In fact, there was no disparity in Team India’s clinical performance in the two home Tests played on different surfaces here at the Wankhede Stadium and at the DY Patil Stadium against England, considering they were playing at home for the first time in almost a decade.
While India scripted the biggest win for any team by margin of runs against England, their first-ever triumph over Australia in 11 Tests now has ensured more entries in the column of ‘matches won’ compared to ‘matches lost’.
In 40 Tests, India now have seven wins and six defeats, while 27 have been drawn.
India’s dominating show warrants the attention of the game’s custodians to ruminate over more ‘home’ Tests in future since such games have only been few and far between.
If the win over England last week saw the emergence of new Test stars in Jemimah Rodrigues, Shubha Satheesh and Renuka Singh Thakur, the one against Australia witnessed the 20-year-old Richa Ghosh arriving at the scene with 52 on debut.
On the fourth day morning, Indian spinners ruled the roost as the trio of Sneh Rana (5-2-9-2), Rajeshwari Gayakwad (1.4-1-0-2) and Deepti Sharma (3-2-5-0) teamed up to wreck havoc on the Australian resistance.
Australia, looking to build on their slender lead of 46 runs, collapsed spectacularly to lose five wickets in the first 45 minutes of the day and concede the game to India.
Pooja Vastrakar began the damage by trapping Ashleigh Gardner for seven in front of the wickets, and Rana tiled the game in India’s favour when she struck twice to remove Annabel Sutherland (27) and Alana King (0).
Rajeshwari Gayakwad, who was unlucky to have not got any success on the third day when she got a breakthrough nearly thrice, cleaned up Kim Garth (4) for her first wicket in the innings.
Gayakwad then bamboozled Jess Jonassen (9) with a delivery that turned into the left-hander sharply and crashed into middle and leg, with the last recognised Australian batter nearly toppling over on her front foot.
Australia were bundled out for 261 in their second innings, having scored a moderate 219 in their first essay after electing to bat.
India were supreme with the bat again as they made 406 in the first essay to also record their highest total ever against Australia in Tests.
Shafali Verma cracked the first ball of the innings for four but Garth produced a peach to find an outside edge off her bat, caught by skipper Alyssa Healy, for the first breakthrough of the innings.
Beth Mooney dropped a sitter off Gardner to give Richa Ghosh (13) an early reprieve when the batter was yet to open her account.
Ghosh went on to add 51 for the second wicket with Mandhana (38 not out off 61 balls, 6x4s) after Shafali Verma (4) fell in the first over. Rodrigues and Mandhana then complete the task.