India brought their desired ‘killing attitude’ to the fore under pressure as they put up a ruthless performance to beat arch-rivals Pakistan by eight wickets and boost their chances of a semifinal berth at the Commonwealth Games at Edgbaston, Birmingham on Sunday. Pakistan’s decision to bat first backfired as Indian bowlers put the choke on the batters to bowl them out for a meager 99 all out in the 18 overs-a-side contest after rain delayed the start of play. Spinners Sneh Rana and Radha Yadav stood out with two wickets each. The chase was clinical too with Smriti Mandhana (63 not out off 42 balls), arguably the most attractive batter in women’s cricket, flaunting her range of strokes on way to a fine unbeaten half-century. The result has India gunned down the target in just 11.4 overs.
India showed an approach that they have been trying to play with for the last couple of months and it would have most definitely pleased Captain Harmanpreet Kaur. Mandhana’s special effort comprised three sixes, including a step-out hit-off-spinner Tuba Hassan for her half-century. A seemingly effortless loft over the cover of pacer Diana Baig in the third over was also of the highest quality. It was the second time this year that an Indo-Pak contest failed to produce a close game with India winning comfortably against their opponents even in the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand. However, the much-anticipated fixture of the Commonwealth Games lived up to the hype off the field with fans turning up in big numbers at Edgbaston. Intermittent showers meant the match start was delayed by 45 minutes with the game reduced to 18 overs a side. Compared to the women’s cricket opener between India and Australia, fans flocked to the 25,000-capacity stadium though it did not seem like an absolute sell-out.
The city is home to a large Indian and Pakistan diaspora but the former had a bigger presence in the stands with the Indian flags visible from all parts of the ground. Dance numbers from Punjabi star Diljit Dosanjh added to the atmosphere and it felt like the game was taking place in Mohali and not in Birmingham. Normally, one would have to pay a fortune for an Indo-Pak cricket game but the Sunday morning fixture provided a much cheaper alternative. “I paid 20 pounds for the ticket. For a men’s game, I might not even get it for 200 pounds. It feels lucky to be here,” said Rajeev Chauhan, who is a resident of Coventry. The Indian fans certainly got their money’s worth in the first half of the game. Renuka Singh, who bowled a dream spell in a losing cause against Australia, started with a rare maiden in the T20 format. Three balls later, Pakistan was one down with no runs on the board as pacer Meghna Singh induced an outside edge off opener Iram Javed’s bat with a ball that shaped away.
Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur went for the extra all-rounder in the playing eleven, bringing in Sneh Rana at the expense of spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad. Batter S Meghana, who joined the team late here after recovering from COVID, was included in place of Harleen Deol. Rana made an instant impact by removing a well-set Muneeba Ali (32) and Pakistan skipper Bismah Maroof (17). Muneeba played some bold strokes in her 30-ball effort, including a six with a slog sweep off Meghna. Maroof perished while trying to sweep while Muneeba got beaten by the flight and offered a catch back to Rana. Renuka made it 64 for four in the 12th over by getting rid of Ayesha Nadeem. Even India opener Shafali Verma rolled her arm over and got a wicket of a sharp return catch. Pakistan tried but was not able to break free from the shackles and ended up with a below-par total.