BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan women suffered their second consecutive loss at the Commonwealth Games as their arch-rivals India put up a ruthless performance to win their much-anticpated clash by eight wickets at Edgbaston on Sunday.
Skipper Bismah Maroof’s decision to bat first backfired as Indian bowlers put the choke on the Pakistan batters to bowl them out for a meagre 99 after a rain delay reduced the match to 18 overs per innings.
Indian spinners Sneh Rana and Radha Yadav stood out with two wickets each.
The chase was clinical too with Smriti Mandhana (63 not out off 42 balls), arguably the most attractive batter in women’s cricket, flaunting her range of strokes on way to a fine unbeaten half century.
The result was India gunned down the target in just 11.4 overs, two days after Pakistan lost to Barbados by 15 runs.
Having both lost their Games opener India and Pakistan arrived at the stadium knowing another defeat would just about end any medal hopes, putting more weight on a fixture that never needs any.
“Whenever we get the opportunity to play against Pakistan we always want to do well,” said India’s Harmanpreet Kaur. “This game was very important to win, not just because it was Pakistan.”
India can clinch a semi-final spot with a win over Barbados in their final Group ‘A’ match on Wednesday while Pakistan need victory over Australia and plenty of help in the tiebreaker scenarios to keep their slim hopes of advancing.
Mandhana’s special effort comprised three sixes, including a step out hit off spinner Tuba Hassan for her half-century. A seemingly effortless loft over cover of pacer Diana Baig in the third over was also of the highest quality.
It was the second time this year that an Indo-Pak contest failed to produce a close game with India winning comfortably against their opponents even in the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand.
Renuka Singh, who bowled a dream spell in a losing cause against Australia, started with a rare maiden in the T20 format.
Three balls later, Pakistan were one down with no runs on the board as pacer Meghna Singh induced an outside edge off opener Iram Javed’s bat with a ball that shaped away.
Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur went for the extra all-rounder in the playing eleven, bringing in Sneh Rana at the expense of spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
Rana made instant impact by removing a well set Muneeba Ali (32) and Bismah (17).
Muneeba played some bold strokes in her 30-ball effort, including a six with a slog sweep off S Meghna. Bismah perished while trying to sweep while Muneeba got beaten by the flight and offered a catch back to Rana.
Renuka made it 64 for four in the 12th over by getting rid of Ayesha Nadeem.
Even India opener Shafali Verma rolled her arm over and got a wicket of a sharp return catch.
Pakistan tried but were not able to break free from the shackles and ended up with a below par total.
FANS FIND COMMON GROUND
In the stands, Pakistan and India fans mingled during the clash, with supporters hailing the occasion as a chance to increase harmony.
While the India and Pakistan rivalry is centred around men’s cricket, the women fully understand its significance and their increasing role in it.
With Birmingham recognised as one of Britain’s most diverse cities with large Indian and Pakistani communities the crowd at the Edgbaston oval was the largest of the tournament.
The atmosphere outside the ground on a drizzly morning was more family outing than the hysteria that usually follows a men’s meeting as fathers and mothers with children in tow soaked up the fun.
“It’s just a game at the end of the day but a good game,” summed up one father in an India jersey accompanied by four young girls.
The Pakistani fans impressed with their fancy dress one dressed in a “Mad Hatter “-style costume in the national colours and another wearing a superhero-style outfit with a shock of green hair.
Pharmaceutical consultant Rahul Vyas said the match at the Commonwealths — otherwise known as the “Friendly Games” — was “a wonderful place to increase love, harmony and peace”.
Vyas travelled from London with his two teenaged children and his sister.
To him, sporting clashes between Pakistan and India present an opportunity for engagement between the two sets of supporters.
“This can be a uniting force,” the 47-year-old told the AFP news agency.
“If I cannot interact with my Pakistani friends how will I be friends with them?
“This is a great opportunity today — look at that Pakistani boy, he is around the same age as my son.
“They both have the same passion for cricket, too many things are there for the basis of a friendship.” He added: “There are certain things our two countries are fighting over but let others deal with political issues.
“Us normal Indian and Pakistani people we can form the roots of a bigger friendship through cricket.”
The occasion was not lost on the players or the fans, the cheering was loud and constant.
At the conclusion no one was leaving Egbaston and setting themselves on fire, as distraught fans have done in the past when results have not gone their way, but the smiles on the faces of India supporters signalled their trip home was going to be a more up beat one.
“It is always a special feeling when you play against Pakistan but I would like to say it is just another game and not like, “ohhhh Pakistan”,” said Sneh Rana. “But it is a good game always. It is a special feeling.”
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2022