Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana blow West Indies away with record stand

West Indies

India 185 for 4 (Verma 73, Mandhana 67, Mohammed 2-35, Selman 2-36) beat West Indies 101 for 9 (Campbelle 33, Radha Yadav 2-10, Pandey 2-22, Poonam Yadav 2-24) by 84 runs

Openers Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana put up India’s highest partnership in women’s T20Is, helping them clinch the first game of the five-match series against West Indies by 84 runs in St Lucia. Their opening stand of 143 took India to 185 for 4, the highest by any side against West Indies in the format, after which the hosts were restricted to 101 for 9.

After a quiet first over, 15-year-old Verma struck the returning Shakera Selman for two fours and a six in the second over, before launching Chinelle Henry for four fours and a six in the fourth over. At that stage, she was on 40 from just 15 balls.

Mandhana, not outscored by her partners too often, took off in the third over by hitting three fours off Hayley Matthews, but Verma was on an 18-ball 43 at the end of the powerplay, while her senior mate was on 31 from the same number of balls. The total had reached 77 by that stage.

The scoring rate fell a bit after the 11th over, but India were still eyeing a strong total, with the openers having brought up the 100-run stand within ten overs. Selman finally got the breakthrough in the 16th over, dismissing Shafali for a 49-ball 73, her highest score in a young career so far. Anisa Mohammed sent back Mandhana in the next over for 67, scored off 46 balls, and Pooja Vastrakar and Deepti Sharma fell cheaply after that. But a late impetus from captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy in the last two overs lifted India to their third-highest total in the format.

It didn’t help West Indies that their fielders missed as many as four chances – three dropped catches and a missed stumping – against Mandhana, Natasha McLean missing two out at long-off; McLean also dropped Harmanpreet in the covers in the last over.

“We definitely don’t want to remember tonight,” West Indies’ stand-in captain Mohammed said after the game. “Our fielding – we need to sharpen up. We can’t restrict a team to a low total if we are going to field like that. And, our batters, they needed to be there at the end, and not expect bowlers to chase 12-13 runs an over.”

On that, the batting, West Indies sorely missed their captain Stafanie Taylor, who had scored 94, 20 and 79 in the three ODIs that preceded the T20Is but is out with an injury.

West Indies lost three wickets inside the powerplay for just 33 runs. Matthews started the chase by hitting two fours off Deepti but fell in the second over to Shikha Pandey. Left-arm spinner Radha Yadav took McLean out in the third over, while Pandey added one more to her tally when she dismissed Chedean Nation.

With the required run-rate soaring, West Indies could not keep up, losing their last five wickets for just 23 runs. Shemaine Campbell finished as their highest runs scorer of the day with a 34-ball 33, while Pandey, Radha and Poonam Yadav finished with two wickets each.

The match, though, had slipped from West Indies’ grasp well before that, in the first half itself. “We worked hard on our opening pair,” Harmanpreet said. “We did well today, especially Shafali Verma, because is young and she is giving so much contribution to the team, playing like a senior player. Smriti Mandhana also played really well, both of their contributions played a big role for us.”

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