Bhumika Bhadriraju and Ritu Singh were a formidable tag-team duo on Tuesday in Dubai as the pair's bowling and fielding prowess wrecked 14th-ranked UAE's chase in an impressive victory for the 28th-ranked USA.
Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna in Dubai (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
Teenage offspinners Bhumika Bhadriraju and Ritu Singh put in a stunning performance in the field to spark an extraordinary collapse of eight wickets for four runs as USA comfortably defended a total of 104 to beat UAE by 25 runs on Tuesday to clinch third place in the Women’s T20I Quad Series at ICC Academy in Dubai. Singh took 1 for 17 in four overs after opening with new ball spin but more dramatically completed a runout and two catches off the bowling of Bhadriraju’s ninth over, which helped the 17-year-old from North Carolina finish with 4 for 9 and Player of the Match honors.
USA won the toss and chose to bat first as Bhadriraju, Mahika Kandanala and Lisa Ramjit all entered the lineup in place of Anika Kolan, Prithi Iyengar and Yashaaditi Teki. The arrival of Kandanala and Ramjit for their first match of the tour proved to be a crucial tactical move as the pair wound up being USA’s two highest scorers in the match.
Kandanala was sent in to open the batting with Disha Dhingra, a shift from USA’s plan of using Singh and Snigdha Paul in the first two matches against Zimbabwe and Thailand, and it led to USA producing their highest scoring Powerplay of the tour. Kandanala was the catalyst for the USA’s aggression in the opening sequence of play as she struck five boundaries in the first three overs to get USA off to a flying start at 28 for 0 under scorching temperatures with the head index rising to 119F.
It took the introduction of UAE’s 15-year-old legspinner Vaishnave Mahesh in the fifth over to put the brakes on USA’s hot start as she induced an edge behind from Dhingra flashing away from her body to fall for 8. After a single by Paul to get off the mark, Mahesh induced a false drive from Kandanala, caught at mid-on for 23. USA captain Sindhu Sriharsha suffered her first failure of the tour, getting out on the last ball of the Powerplay for 2 after chasing a wider delivery and edging behind off UAE captain Chaya Mughal to make it 34 for 3.
Ramjit entered at No. 5 and teamed with Paul to rebuild the innings in what was an attritional partnership of 40 runs across 8.2 overs. Ramjit remained patient after a scratchy start, beginning her innings on 6 off 20 balls. But back-to-back boundaries off of Samaira Dhanidharka in the 13th over got her unstuck and put USA back on course to go past three figures. The partnership came to an end when Paul tried to cut Mahesh and was cramped for room to be bowled for 19.
Singh was given out for 6 in the following over to Kavisha Kumari Egodage, playing back to a good length ball on the pads that the umpire felt would have clipped leg stump. Geetika Kodali’s rough series with the bat concluded with her second consecutive duck as she skied a heave two balls later to extra cover on the ring where Mughal took a catch to give Egodage her second wicket making the score 87 for 6.
USA continued to sputter over the final four overs, adding just 17 more runs across the final 24 balls as Mahesh ended her spell in the 17th with a wicket maiden. She claimed Isani Vaghela with a drive to mid-off for her second straight duck, making it three wickets for no run in a rapid middle order collapse. Ramjit’s stay finally ended for a top-score of 27 in the 18th over. One ball after striking her fourth and final boundary, a charge down the track to Egodage resulted in an edge behind for 27 to make it 91 for 8.
Taranum Chopra and Suhani Thadani were able to scratch out 13 runs off the last 14 legal deliveries to take USA to a final total of 104 for 8 as the pair ended on 6 not out and 3 not out respectively, with the partnership aided by four wides. Mahesh claimed 4 for 12 in four overs while Egodage took 3 for 20 in three overs. Mughal returned 1 for 15 in her four overs as UAE’s only other wicket-taker.
UAE initially looked like they were going to cruise to victory behind the big-hitting of Egodage and big-hitting 18-year-old left-handed opener Theertha Satish. After recovering from the early loss of Dharnidharka, caught behind for 6 in the third over thanks to a superb effort diving forward by Sriharsha off the bowling of Vaghela, the teenage duo of Egodage and Satish continued to attack, clubbing Thadani for three boundaries in the fifth over as UAE sprinted to 34 for 1.
But Singh started the domino effect in the sixth over, getting Egodage out bowled for 10 on a good length ball that turned in and cramped her for room trying to fight the ball off through the off side. Bhadriraju entered in the seventh and claimed the huge scalp of Satish for 16 on her very first delivery. A half-tracker looked like it was going to disappear off the bat for four but Chopra was placed perfectly at deep backward square leg for the shot and ran in five yards to intercept the powerfully struck pull shot with a sharp catch at waist height. Mughal entered and lasted just two balls before skying an audacious heave to Ramjit inside the ring at midwicket, who kept her nerve to hold onto a swirling chance in the afternoon wind.
Chopra was brought on for her different style of offspin in place of Singh from the opposite end and began with a wicket maiden as Priyanjali Jain was beaten in flight charging down the track and stumped easily by Sriharsha for a third-ball duck.
The most dramatic sequence of the match was to come in the ninth over though when Singh took center stage. A chip down the ground off the first ball of the over bowled by Bhadriraju to Khushi Sharma resulted in a sliding stop by Singh running to her left from her position at long-on. After getting to her feet, she hurled a direct hit from 40 yards out into the non-striker’s stumps to catch Rinitha Rajith four yards short attempting to come back for a second run.
But the runout was just the appetizer for the main course cooked up by Singh with a pair of brilliant catches. Sharma once again chipped a drive down the ground on the very next ball and Singh misjudged it initially by coming in too far off the rope but corrected her path in enough time to run to her right and reach to her right to cling on to a leaping effort to dismiss Sharma for 2. Four balls later, Mahesh tempted fate by choosing not to keep the ball on the ground with a lofted drive back over Bhadriraju’s head down the ground. Singh charged immediately to her left, covering 25 yards before diving full extension to pull off a superlative catch in front of the sight screen to make it 37 for 8.
Chopra completed her third maiden in a row in the 12th, though with a bit of good fortune as a full toss to start the over was pulled straight to Bhadriraju on the ring at backward square leg to dismiss Indhuja Nandakumar for 1 to complete the slide of 8 for 4 making it 39 for 9.
Bhadriraju came close to completing what would have been USA’s first-ever five-wicket haul in Women’s T20Is, but a heave by Natasha Cherriath was spilled by Paul diving forward at deep midwicket on 2 in the 13thover. The missed chance allowed Cherriath to continue stretching the match out until the final over as she teamed with Suraksha Kotte for UAE’s best partnership of the match, adding 40 for the 10th wicket. USA had two other opportunities to end the stand earlier, both off Singh. Cherriath was dropped again on 10 in the 16thby Thadani at extra cover on the ring while Thadani was once again the culprit of a spilled chance at extra cover off the bat of Kotte on 4 in the 18th over. Thadani atoned for the errors by getting the final wicket to fall in the 20th, inducing a skied drive by Kotte for 9 to Paul on the ring at extra cover as UAE were eventually bowled out for 79 in 19.4 overs.
Cherriath ended unbeaten on 27 off 24 balls after entering at No. 9 for UAE. Aside from Bhadrinath’s Player of the Match haul of 4 for 9, which were the second-best figures in a Women’s T20I for USA, Chopra ended with an astounding line of 4-3-8-2. Vaghela claimed 1 for 7 in one over, Singh 1 for 17 in four and Thadani 1 for 20 in 2.4. Kodali bowled a tight spell of 0 for 11 off three overs at the death including a maiden to ensure that UAE had no chance of chasing down USA’s total in spite of the tailend rally.
In the day’s other match, Zimbabwe defeated Thailand by three wickets after chasing a target of 103 with eight balls to spare to finish as undefeated champions of the Women’s T20I Quad Series. USA captain Sriharsha finished as the fifth highest scorer in the series with 73 runs at an average of 36.50 and was one of only three players to score a half-century along with Zimbabweans Mary-Anne Musonda and Modester Mupachikwa. Thailand’s Nannapat Koncharoenkai ended as the leading scorer with 88 runs in three innings at an average of 44.00. On the bowling side, UAE’s Mahesh was the leading wicket-taker with six scalps while USA’s Bhadriraju and Chopra finished tied for third with four wickets apiece.
USA now has two days off before playing an official ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier warmup match against Thailand on September 16 in Abu Dhabi. USA’s first official tournament match as part of Group A will take place against Scotland on September 18 at 7 pm local time.