How India lost the CWG gold

A look at a collapse or two in cricket's second gold medal match at a Commonwealth Games.

Oh, this was bad. At the 15 over mark, the score was 125/3, two set batters, the ball being smashed around. This was going exactly as planned.

At the start of the last five overs, there is a wicket, but there is still a set star at the crease. The following over there is another wicket and not too many more runs. The good times are now starting to get shaky. The following over there is a boundary, then the set batter is out before another boundary at least gives some respite. Now the bowlers are in, and there is one boundary and another wicket in the over. That will be the last boundary, but there will be another wicket.

This is a massive collapse, and it means that in the last five overs they scored 5/36. The good news for these batters was that this occurred in the first innings, so no one will remember that they fell apart. Because while Australia collapsed at the end of their knock, India did too. And that’s what sticks. It’s not that 7/32 is that much worse than 5/36, but when it happens matters.

The India collapse starts before, a ball before Jemimah Rodrigues is dismissed, India need 44 from 32. It should be noted that she was batting at a run-a-ball, which was ok with Harmanpreet Kaur at the other end. But when you need eight runs an over, it’s also a slight drain. If they both end up unbeaten, it probably doesn’t matter. But when Rodriguez is out, that does open up an end.

It also means that Pooja Vastrakar is sent in. That was probably an overreaction to how slow Rodriguez had been. Vastrakar has a career strike rate of 128, Deepti is at 95. One bats all over the order, and the other is a pretty regular top six batter. So maybe this was always the plan. If you look at their histories together they have often switched who comes in first.

But Vastrakar gets stuck. She starts with three dots, finally hits a single, and is out on her fifth ball. With Harmanpreet in, and Deepti moving down one, there is no need to panic. But next ball Harmanpreet scoops a ball into her helmet, and is caught. That is the kind of wicket you often find in collapses like this. We tend to remember the mix-ups and early slogs, but Harmanpreet was beating Australia, very nearly on her own, and she middles the ball into the badge and somehow it ends up with Alyssa Healy.

Think about the three wickets so far. Rodriguez was set and tried to find a boundary, perfectly normal. Vastrakar ate up some balls and took on the spinner. That is what her strike rate suggests. And then Harmanpreet played a decent shot that went wrong in the most unlucky way.

At this point, India is in all sorts of trouble, but they get a handy over from Alana King, who delivers six runs in wides, allowing through 13 in total, meaning the runs per over actually comes down despite the fact they only score in ones and twos.

The following over there is a boundary when Tahlia McGrath gets her Covid positive knee stuck in the turf and misses a simple stop. It’s another gifted boundary from Australia, meaning India need 23 from 16. Sneh Rana’s next ball she pulls awkwardly to short fine, and is called through by Deepti, but she never really runs. She stutters down the other end and Australia have another wicket.

Here India do something weird again, Yastika Bhatia is their keeper batter but they send in Radha Yadav who is a bowler. I look forward to the long read on this game from India’s perspective to hear about why this happened. But I assume it is a strike rate thing. But Bhatia bats top order in Test and ODIS, her batting skills might have been the better option here. But she’s not a striker. ((EDIT: Since writing this I heard on India on 99.94 that it was because Bhatia was a concussion substitute and had to bat at that position.))

But Yadav is out there to watch the next delivery as Deepti edges a ball past slip. They have lost a wicket in this over, but through two bits of luck they also score 11 runs, again it’s above the rate. They now need 17 from 12.

Yadav starts the next over by smashing a ball straight to mid off and running. She loses to the direct hit, and Yastika Bhatia comes out to bat as a number nine keeper.

Finally there is a four struck perfectly as Deepti charges down and smashes Schutt back over her head for a boundary. Even then it goes with an inch or two of being saved, and probably could have been. India need 13 off ten at this point.

With Deepti at the crease, a specialist batting number nine with her, this is at least a 40% chance of victory, even with only three wickets in hand. But Schutt gets her next ball as she tries to whip the ball away.

Schutt is one of the great inswing bowlers in the women’s game, and let me tell you about another one, Anya Shrubsole. And why was I thinking of her, well because of what happened in the 2017 World Cup final. There Shrubsole took 6/46, and India lost 7/28.

The easy thing is to say choking, but the other side of it is to wonder if India has enough quality batters down the order to begin with. You could argue that was similar in a lot of the South Africa losses outside the tie in 1999, which was both teams making mistakes but South Africa making one more.

That is maybe for another time. But for right now, it meant that India needed 11 runs off the final six balls with three wickets in hand and their specialist number nine still out there. Bhatia refuses a run from the first ball, it’s risky, but she is probably more chance of hitting two boundaries than her partner Megnha Singh. Next ball Bhatia finds long off and goes for two, there is no two, Megnha knows this, and seems to give up early and is run out. On first glance I wasn’t even sure they crossed.

It didn’t matter much next ball when Bhatia was out sweeping And Australia won.

44 from 32 is what India needed when they lose 8//32. It sounds terrible, and it is, it cost them the gold medal. But just think back to Australia. They are - based on recent form - the better team. They are - based on recent form - the best women's teams ever. They were batting with slightly less pressure, had set batters, and in their last five overs they added only 36 runs for five wickets.

Often in these games, the steam goes out of the ball and both teams struggle to hit boundaries at the end. In this one. I think both teams lot the plot a bit at the end of their innings. For Australia, they just did slightly better at their worst than India did.

Sometimes that is enough.