Global Affairs

England v India: Mithali Raj leads India to tense four-wicket win in third ODI

England 219 all out (47 overs): Sciver 49, Deepti 3-47
India 220-6 (46.3 overs): Raj 75*, Mandhana 49, Ecclestone 2-36
India (2pts) win by four wickets; England lead series 6-4

Captain Mithali Raj led India to a thrilling four-wicket win in the third one-day international against England in Worcester to keep the tourists alive in the multi-format series.

India were struggling in their chase of 220 as the the run-rate climbed on a slow pitch, and needed 46 runs from the final 36 balls.

However, on the day she became the leading run-scorer in women’s international cricket, Raj anchored the innings with 75 from 86 balls and Sneh Rana’s quickfire 22 put India on top, leaving them needing just six runs from the final over.

It was fitting that it was Raj who pushed Katherine Brunt’s third delivery to the boundary to secure an entertaining win and two points for her side, reducing the series’ point deficit to 6-4.

Watched by the liveliest crowd of the series, India put themselves in a good position with the ball and then thrilled with the unlikely run chase.

The series now switches to three T20 internationals, with the first in Northampton on Friday.

Raj proves she knows best

There was a large number of India fans present at New Road

While Raj has made half-centuries in all three of the ODIs, only this one has come in a winning cause.

The 38-year-old has attracted criticism for scoring too slowly and putting unfair pressure on the batters at the other end.

An international veteran of 21 years, Raj knows her game better than anyone, and she knows if she can stay until the end, as she did here at New Road, she has enough power and skill to push India to victory.

And so she did. It seemed at first she would be more aggressive, twice advancing down the pitch to strike the bowlers back down the ground for four, shots which moved her past Charlotte Edwards’ all-time record of 10,273 runs.

She is not quick between the wickets but she was able to absorb the pressure and then unleash as England faded in the field.

A pull to mid-wicket off Kate Cross to bring up her 50 was good; the lofted drive off Sciver in the 43rd over to pull India back into the chase was exquisite.

Smriti Mandhana had laid the platform for India at the top of the order with 49, but until the final seven overs, England bowled well to restrict the tourists.

However, slips in the field and a poor final two overs from Brunt, who lost her line, helped India over the line.

Hosts struggle on sluggish pitch

This was the first time England have batted first in the ODI series and they struggled to get to grips with the pace of the pitch and the timing of their innings.

The pitch was slow after the morning’s persistent rain and had very little bounce, most notably when Tammy Beaumont tried to pull a Jhulan Goswami delivery and was pinned lbw for a duck.

Sciver and Knight were the only two players to spend any length of time at the crease and even they struggled to find the boundary, with a better Indian fielding effort stopping them from rotating the strike.

Batters fell trying to accelerate the rate. Knight swept Harmanpreet Kaur to deep mid-wicket, Amy Jones came down the pitch and lofted Deepti into the deep while Sciver, one run away from her half-century, went big and was well held by a diving, sliding Mandhana.

England’s lower order also struggled, losing three wickets in seven balls to find themselves 197-9 with two overs remaining.

However, a late thrash from Cross at number 11, which saw her hit the only six of the innings, helped them beyond the 200 mark – a total which was almost enough.

‘I never give up’ – what they said

England captain Heather Knight: “There’s a bit of disappointment but it was a great game and made even better by the crowd.

“We haven’t been tested like that for a while so it was a good experience to get a tight finish.”

India captain Mithali Raj: “I never give up in the middle, I knew I just needed one good partnership.

“I knew in the middle of the innings I could manage the game. We have younger players so I have to guide them, and I have to be there in the middle. You can’t win games sat in the dug-out.”

Player of the series Sophie Ecclestone: “It was a disappointing end but getting the two wins up first was great and sets us up nicely for the T20s.

“Mithali batted really well today, she was hard to bowl at on that pitch because it’s probably more of the pitch they’re used to playing on.”

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