India got a win on the board at last, to keep this multi-format series alive, and it was all thanks to… no, not Mithali’s 75 off 86 balls; but Sneh Rana’s 22 off 24.
Of course Mithali will get the plaudits on so many levels – passing 50 for the 3rd time in the series, this time with a significantly improved Strike Rate – 87, compared with 67 and 64 in the 1st and 2nd ODIs – and in doing so, overtaking Charlotte Edwards as the leading international run-scorer of all time. Mithali was (rightly) named Player of the Match.
But let’s rewind to the dismissal of Deepti Sharma in the 40th over. India still needed 56 in 7 overs, at a run-rate of exactly 8, having gone at just over 4 across the innings. It didn’t look hopeful. Mithali herself was still on a Strike Rate of 69 at that point – not enough to win the game from there.
But Rana came to the crease and immediately injected a an extra yard of urgency into proceedings. Rana played fearless cricket, attacking the best England had to throw at her, and Mithali responded too, upping her Strike Rate to match Rana. By the time Rana was dismissed, for 22 off 24 balls, the edge had turned in India’s favour, with 6 required off the final over.
The decision to throw Katherine Brunt the ball for that final over was an “interesting” one – she can be expensive at the death – for example conceding 18 runs in her final over in the 2nd ODI at Taunton – and only Ecclestone was “bowled out”, so other options were available. But the truth is probably that it was over by that point anyway. With the experience of Mithali and Jhulan at the crease, India were firm favourites to make 6 off the last 6 balls, and in fact they only needed 3 balls to get over the line.
It was all a far cry from the equivalent fixture here 5 years ago, when England thrashed Pakistan by 212 runs, thanks to centuries from Lauren Winfield-Hill and Tammy Beaumont. England hit 50 boundaries that day, with the rope pulled in as tight as was permitted under the regulations. Today, on a larger outfield, they managed just 20, and at one point went 16 overs without finding the rope. But they ran hard between the wickets, as they always do, and denied the Indians a single maiden. It got them to 219 – almost enough… but not quite, thanks to La Princesa Rana.