Vastrakar’s career-best four-for leads India to Asian Games final

India 52 for 2 (Rodrigues 20*, Shafali 17) beat Bangladesh 51 all out (Nigar 12, Vastrakar 4-17) by eight wickets

Pooja Vastrakar could have well been watching the Asian Games back home on TV. She was only initially named as a non-travelling reserve in the squad, who was to fly back home after a week-long pre-departure camp in Bengaluru. But when Anjali Sarvani pulled up injured a day prior to departure, the direction of Vastrakar’s flight changed from Indore to Hangzhou.
A week later, on Sunday, Vastrakar proved why she should have been considered in the first place. Her career-best T20I figures of 4 for 17 helped skittle Bangladesh for 51 in the semi-final as India vaulted themselves into gold medal contention. Up next in the final on Monday will be the winner of Pakistan versus Sri Lanka in the second semi-final.
India will head into that game knowing their regular captain Harmanpreet Kaur will be available after her two-match suspension ended with Sunday’s game, which incidentally was given to her following an acrimonious series against Bangladesh in July.

Vastrakar’s early incision

Nip-backers, outswingers, hard lengths – Vastrakar showed she’s no one-trick pony as she got it to zip around with the new ball. And in the first over itself, she had two wickets with two different deliveries. Shathi Rani was caught behind first ball of the match after being enticed to drive an away-swinger and Shamima Sultana was trapped lbw playing all around one that hit the seam and jagged back to hit her below-the-knee roll.

In her next over, Vastrakar should have had a third but Smriti Mandhana grassed a sitter at mid-off. Sobhana Mostary couldn’t capitalise, managing just one more run, before being dismissed for 8 in Vastrakar’s third straight over inside the powerplay. And it was almost an action replay of the reprieve. Except Mandhana saw this carefully lodge in her palms.

In the next over, debutant Titas Sadhu picked up her maiden wicket with an excellent delivery of her own. Angled in full from wide of the crease, Sadhu had Shorna Akter playing all around a full delivery that held its line to crash into the middle. At 21 for 4 after the powerplay, Bangladesh were tied in knots on a surface that held up considerably, where shot-making wasn’t easy. Under the covers for two full days in the lead-up to the match, the surface seemed a touch unpredictable, which further magnified Bangladesh’s decision to bat early into the contest.

Run outs add to Bangladesh’s misery

It wasn’t just shot selection that hampered Bangladesh, though. Their running between the wickets was equally poor, and accounted for two run outs that should have never been. Nigar Sultana, one of Bangladesh’s most-accomplished batters, was out attempting a single to extra cover where Devika Vaidya swooped in to effect a direct hit at the bowler’s end.

Two balls later, Fahima Khatun was run out without facing a ball when Ritu Moni dabbed one to short third, where Kanika Ahuja fired a direct hit at the striker’s end. Khatun may have survived had she put in a dive; she didn’t. At 25 for 6, Bangladesh were in danger of not lasting the overs. Nahida Akter and Moni helped Bangladesh huff and puff past 50 before they folded in the 18th over, with five of India’s bowlers finishing among the wickets.

Rodrigues helps India cruise home

India’s chase wasn’t without its own initial hitches. Smriti Mandhana was out to Marufa Akter, misjudging the line of her delivery as she lobbed a leading edge to point for 7. Then with the target two blows away, Shafali Verma who seemed in a hurry, especially in trying to muscle her way against spin, perished. Looking to get inside the line and pull, Shafali was beaten by the slowness of the surface as the ball kept a tad low and sneaked through her legs to crash into the stumps. Rodrigues treaded spin with her patented touch game, using the pace of the bowlers to nudge and deflect deliveries into gaps to make a polished unbeaten 20 to see India home in Ahuja’s company with 70 balls to spare.