New Zealand were all at sea against the spinners. And a deeper look into the game suggests that they have some tough swimming to do.
Before the series began, it may have been hard to pick who was the favourite between the White Ferns and the Indian women. India, despite the off-field drama surrounding the change of coach, looked the stronger team, with more match-winners. But New Zealand were playing at home, in conditions they knew best, traditionally considered foreign to India
But then Deepti Sharma ran out the dangerous Sophie Devine. The Indian spinners took eight wickets to bowl out New Zealand for 192 after a 61-run opening partnership. And the batswomen then completed the formalities on a flat pitch at Napier. Clearly, New Zealand were the ones at sea. And a deeper look into the game suggests that they have some tough swimming to do.
Worldwide, there has been an effort to produce homogenous, batting-friendly tracks for women’s internationals, to provide conditions that highlight the fastest growing facet of the sport: power hitting. While that has seen par scores rise steadily, it also means home advantage has been somewhat neutered. So with conditions loaded in the favour of the batswomen, what often sets teams apart is the bowling.
This is where India have a huge advantage against New Zealand, thanks to the quality of their spinners, and the inability of the Kiwi batswomen to negotiate them.
Poonam Yadav is barely five feet tall but has grown into one of the best bowlers in the world. She has added the googly to her arsenal, and had an impressive 2018, making the ICC Team of the Year in both formats. On Thursday (January 24), she was supported by Ekta Bisht and Deepti Sharma, providing variety and accuracy. And running drinks for India was Rajeshwari Gayakwad, who has the best bowling average and strike rate in the world since April 2016 (minimum seven matches and 100 balls).
New Zealand on the other hand, have their issues against the turning ball. The last time these teams met in an ODI, New Zealand lost eight for 52 against spin, to go from 27 for 2 to 79 all out. Not on a subcontinental dust bowl, mind you. That was in Derby, in the 2017 Women’s World Cup, on a pitch where India had put on 265 in 50 overs.