India through to semi-finals with last-ball win after Amelia Kerr’s scare

Shikha Pandey celebrates Rachel Priest’s wicket © Getty Images

India 8 for 133 (Verma 46, Kerr 2-21, Mair 2-27) beat New Zealand 6 for 129 (Kerr 34*) by four runs

India squeezed past an error-prone New Zealand into the Twenty20 World Cup semi-finals and probable tournament favouritism, after Shafali Verma added to her tournament highlight reel and and then Harmanpreet Kaur marshalled her bowlers to suffocating effect at the Junction Oval in Melbourne.

Sent in to bat by Sophie Devine, India benefited from another whip-crack start thanks to Verma, who cashed in on two dropped chances on her way to 46 off 34, after scores of 29 and 39 against Australia and Bangladesh. While the innings faded at its back end, the bowlers had been given more than enough to defend on a sluggish surface that rewarded canny slow bowling against a New Zealand side eager to get to grips with the turning ball.

After Shikha Pandey struck first, Suzie Bates and Devine perished to deliveries they needed to wait just a fraction longer before hitting, and from that early loss of three wickets it was always going to be a game of catch-up. Amelia Kerr threatened when she took 18 off Poonam Yadav in the 19th over, but Pandey kept her nerve to send India through as New Zealand scored 29 off the last two overs when they needed 34.

Hurricane Verma blows into Junction Oval

There was absolutely nothing dull about Verma’s latest appearance, although it was at times on the scrappier side as both sides adjusted from the pace of Perth to the slower Junction Oval surface. A few early plays and misses gave way to boundaries, and then the sign that Verma was really in when she deposited successive deliveries from Anna Peterson over the straight boundary for sixes, when an obliging half volley was followed by an even more generous full toss. All was not well at the other end, however, after Smriti Mandhana dragged Lea Tahuhu onto the stumps and then Taniya Bhatia’s sound supporting innings was ended with a square cut off Rosemary Mair that arrowed straight to Kerr.

Verma’s innings was also to grow more ragged, as she was twice put down by New Zealand at long-on and then midwicket. Further wickets, as Jemimah Rodrigues front edged a full toss and then Kaur offered the tamest of return catches to Leigh Kasperek, contributed to a sense of claustrophobia, and Verma’s stay was to end with a catch to long-off. Spectacular as some of her shots had been, the innings was petering out.

Kerr restricts India

Despite a greenish tinge on the pitch, New Zealand loaded up on spin after the early overs, as Devine called upon no fewer than seven bowlers in her efforts to slow down India. Best of the bunch was Kerr, not surprisingly, who twirled her legbreaks and variations with typical skill and was rewarded with the wickets of Verma and Veda Krishnamurthy lbw on the sweep after New Zealand opted for the recourse of the DRS.

Having been 1 for 68, India declined as far as 7 for 111 before Pandey and Radha Yadav scrounged some vital runs at the death, including the only six of the innings not fired off by Verma. New Zealand were left feeling mixed about proceedings: they would probably have taken a target as low as 134 at the start of the match, but their profligacy in missing numerous chances – a trend for several teams in the tournament so far – left a sour sense of opportunity spurned.

Full report to follow…

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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