SYLHET- Harmanpreet Kaur doesn’t hit the ball hard; she merely caresses it, guides it and, of course, backs all that up with superb footwork and hand-eye coordination. All those aspects of her batting came together on Sunday (March 30) as India Women beat Bangladesh Women by 79 runs to open its account at the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2014 at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium.
Time in the middle and overs to play with are luxuries not too many batters get in T20 cricket. But when the opportunity presented itself, Kaur grabbed it with both hands. Her chanceless 77 off just 59 balls formed the bedrock of India's strong finish that ended at 152 for 5. It was a total that was well beyond sight for a side that had managed to notch up just two hundred-plus totals in 20 previous T20 Internationals, and Bangladesh limped to 72 for 8 in their reply. Along the way, Bangladesh ran into the fiery Jhulan Goswami, arguably India's best medium pacer, who found her mojo very early on when she dismissed Fargana Haque and Rumana Ahmed, two of Bangladesh's more accomplished batters, in her first over to leave it in dire straits. Fargana played outside the line of a delivery that nipped back in to be lbw while Ahmed was hit flush on the toe by a full and straight delivery she couldn't get bat to. It wouldn't have been wrong to say victory was a foregone conclusion very early in the piece, as Bangladesh, at 39 for 3 in ten overs, was gone for all money and the inevitable was merely being delayed. Shubhlakshmi Sharma, the medium pacer, also did her credentials no harm as she sliced through the middle order to finish with figures of 3 for 6 from her three overs, while Goswami had 3 for 11.
It was a no-brainer that Bangladesh's best chance to mount a challenge was by picking a clutch of wickets upfront. But on the day, it was overpowered by an Indian team that seemed to have finally found its batting formula with the two best batters playing out a majority of the overs. While Kaur was all about flair and timing, Mithali Raj, the captain, played the role of aggressor initially in the 107-run opening stand. Raj broke the calm in the second over with two crashing square drives to quickly get into her groove, while Kaur was slow to get off the blocks despite her crisp timing as the ball found the fielders repeatedly.
But her concentration and willingness to rise above the initial frustration was a heartening sight.
As the innings progressed, she displayed all the shots in her book, the most eye-catching one being a straight hit off Khadiza Tul Kubra, the off-spinner, that comfortably cleared the ropes and just missed the sightscreen.
It allowed Raj the rare luxury of not having to carry the weight of the batting unit, as some of the shots she played were typical of her younger days. Expressive and disdainful at times, her 38-ball 41 was studded with five boundaries. By the time she was stumped, the damage had been done.
After that, batters came and went, but Kaur breezed on for four more overs before being caught at long-off. As she walked off, all her team-mates stood up in applause. It may have come a little too late in the context of the tournament, but it was yet another exhibition of Kaur's ability, for it won't be the last time one hears of her.