There was an injury concern for White Ferns batter Lauren Down eight days out from the start of the Women’s Cricket World Cup as their five-match ODI series against India ended with their first defeat.
Down dived forward to take a sharp catch to remove Indian opener, Shafali Verma, in the fifth over, but took a blow on her right thumb and didn’t field for the rest of the innings on Thursday.
She could be seen wearing strapping at the end of the six-wicket loss and coach Bob Carter said afterwards: “We’re at the moment assessing her, and we’ll hopefully have some more news over the next 24 hours.
At the moment it’s a little bit too early to give anything solid on it.”
Reigning ICC cricketer of the year Smriti Mandhana showed what India had been missing in the early matches of this series, which the White Ferns won 4-1, making 71 off 84 balls to set her side on their way in pursuit of 252 at John Davies Oval in Queenstown.
Harmanpreet Kaur then made 63 before falling with the finish line in sight, while captain Mithali Raj was unbeaten on 54 as they won with four overs to spare.
Mandhana was dropped off consecutive balls when she was on 41, first when she hit the ball back to Frankie Mackay, who dived low but couldn’t hold on, then when she tried to clear Amy Satterthwaite at mid-on.
Kaur also had a life when she was on 19, and Suzie Bates dropped her at long-on off the bowling of Mackay.
Bates made amends the following over by holding on when Mandhanna hit the ball to her at mid-wicket off the bowling of Melie Kerr, but India barely stumbled from there.
Kerr made her fourth score of 50 or more in a row after the White Ferns won the toss and chose to bat, but was dismissed for 71, top-edging a sweep.
Sophie Devine made 34 and Hayley Jensen and Down each made 30 as they posted 251-9 from their 50 overs.
The big moment
Call it two. The White Ferns’ fielding has been below par throughout this series and Thursday was when it finally proved costly. When Smriti Mandhana offered up back-to-back chances, at least one of them had to be taken. By the time she was finally dismissed, India were too far in front to be pulled back.
Best with the bat
Smriti Mandhana was unable to finish the job for India, but showed her class in anchoring the early stages of their chase and making 71 off 84. She was sorely missed in the first three matches of this series, but will be key to India’s hopes at the World Cup, which starts for them next Sunday against Pakistan.
Best with the ball
Sneh Rana took 2-40 from nine overs for India, including the wicket of Sophie Devine, which ended a 68-run partnership for the second wicket between her and Kerr, which was starting to look ominous.
Stat of the day
When this series began, Melie Kerr was averaging 30 in women’s ODI cricket. When she was dismissed for 66 on Thursday, top-edging a sweep off Deepti Sharma, she was one run away from lifting it to 40. It currently sits at 39.96, but you’d bet on her getting past that mark in the near future – and staying there for the rest of her career.
The big picture
India captain Mithali Raj said at the toss that this was their strongest XI, but the White Ferns were missing leading seamers Lea Tahuhu and Jess Kerr, among others. Lauren Down’s injury was a concern, especially coming so close to the start of a major tournament. Brooke Halliday has tested negative for Covid-19 a second time and will rejoin the squad as they head to Christchurch on Friday.
At John Davies Oval, Queenstown: White Ferns 251-9 (Melie Kerr 66, Sophie Devine 34, Lauren Down 30, Hayley Jensen 30; Sneh Rana 2-40, Deepti Sharma 2-42, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2-61) lost to India 252-4 (Smriti Mandhana 71, Harmanpreet Kaur 63, Mithali Raj 54no) by six wickets
White Ferns win the five-match series 4-1