Women's T20 World Cup: Australia stunned by India in Sydney

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport
ICC Women's T20 World Cup, Group A, Sydney (Showground):
India 132-4 (20 overs): Sharma 49*, Jonassen 2-24
Australia 115 (19.5 overs): Healy 51, Poonam 4-19
India won by 17 runs
Scorecard and tables

Hosts Australia were stunned by India in the opening game of the Women's T20 World Cup in Sydney.

Chasing 133, the defending champions were bundled out for 115 thanks chiefly to leg-spinner Poonam Yadav, who claimed 4-19.

India's 132-4, anchored by 49 not out from Deepti Sharma, seemed no more than par, but they exploited the slow conditions to win by 17 runs.

England open their campaign against South Africa on Sunday.

Heather Knight's team were runners-up to Australia two years ago, but the home side now face the prospect of having to win their final three group matches in order to reach the semi-finals.

Given Group A also includes New Zealand - along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - it is far from certain that the favourites will make the last four.

Superb start in Sydney

This is the first time that separate T20 World Cups for men and women have been held in the same country in the same year, with the men's version scheduled for October and November.

The women's event is building towards a final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 8 March, when it is hoped the biggest crowd for any women's sporting event will be in attendance.

That is far more likely if Australia reach the showpiece, but for the sake of the tournament as a whole, the stunning defeat of the heavy favourites on opening night adds much greater intrigue to the two weeks that follow.

Not only that, but is a huge boost to the constantly improving India team, for whom 16-year-old opener Shafali Verma sparkled, wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatiya dazzled and leg-spinner Poonam was masterful.

After an opening ceremony that included fireworks, a DJ, dancers and popular children's music group The Wiggles, the entertainment of the cricket would not be surpassed.

Poonam puzzles Australia

Leg-spinner Poonam has long puzzled international batters, mainly because she bowls achingly slowly. The Sydney surface was ideally suited to her style.

She was not introduced until the 10th over, by which time Australia had eased to 58-2, and proceeded to confound the hosts with the support of wicketkeeper Bhatia.

Alyssa Healy chipped a return catch after reaching 50 with a six, but it was in Poonam's following over when the game really turned in India's favour.

First, Rachael Haynes ran past a googly to be stumped, then Ellyse Perry was bowled by a similar delivery for a golden duck. Poonam was denied a hat-trick when the diving Bhatia could not hold on to an edge from Jess Jonassen.

With 57 required from the final eight overs, Australia's hopes rested on Ashleigh Gardner, but the required rate could not be controlled.

Gardner survived being bowled by Poonam off a delivery that was called a no-ball for bouncing twice, yet was faced with the prospect of taking 21 from the final over.

She skied a catch to bowler Shikhar Pandey and, when Molly Strano was run out off the penultimate ball of the match, a famous India win was complete.

Verma shines, Sharma steadies

India opener Verma is only 16 years old and once cut her hair short in order to trick her way into playing at a boys' academy.

She gave a glimpse of her exciting talent on Friday, flaying 29 from 15 balls as India reached 40-0 from only four overs.

Verma was the second wicket in a collapse of 3-6, after which India were squeezed by Australia's spinners and medium-pacers. Only three boundaries were scored in the final 16 overs of the innings.

Sharma held things together, adding 53 with Jemimah Rodrigues, but there was still the feeling that India's lack of intent, both with their strokeplay and running between the wickets, had left them short of a winning total.

That was to discount the wizardry of Poonam, and Australia's surprising wilt in the pressure of the chase.

'A perfect way to start'

England spinner Alex Hartley on Test Match Special: "We've had a low-scoring thriller, which is the perfect way for the tournament to start."

India captain Harmanpreet Kaur on TMS: "It's a great feeling, you always look to win your first game as it will set the tone for you. Poonam Yadav is always good for the team, I'm happy for her as she's had some injuries and made a good comeback."

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