USA Women's captain Sindhu Sriharsha created history in a losing cause against Bangladesh, setting numerous USA Women's T20 landmarks that may be hard to surpass for many years to come.
Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna in Abu Dhabi (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
USA Women’s captain Sindhu Sriharsha’s stellar tour of the UAE continued on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, achieving numerous milestones in spite of a losing cause as USA went down to Bangladesh by 55 runs in their final group match of the 2022 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Sriharsha entered at the end of the first over in USA’s pursuit of a Bangladesh first innings total of 158 for 1 and batted the final 19 overs, ending on 74 not out off 71 balls as USA finished on 103 for 3. Sriharsha’s total is the highest ever for a USA Women’s player in T20Is, besting the previous mark of 53 not out by Nadia Gruny in a loss to the Netherlands at the 2019 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland. Sriharsha also became the first USA Women’s player with multiple T20I fifties in a career, having scored her first one earlier in the tour in a loss to Thailand. She teamed with Lisa Ramjit to produce an unbeaten 91-run partnership for the fourth wicket, the highest partnership for any wicket in USA Women’s T20I history, beating the previous mark of an unbeaten 71-run stand for the first wicket by Gargi Bhogle and Shebani Bhaskar against Canada at the 2021 ICC Americas Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in Mexico.
Perhaps most impressive of all, Sriharsha set a record across all Women’s T20I cricket for the highest percentage of runs scored by one player in a completed team innings as she accounted for 71.84% of USA’s runs in the match. The feat beat the previous mark held by West Indies star Deandra Dottin, who made 112 out of a total of 159 for 6 (70.44%) against Sri Lanka in 2017.
“Definitely I was kicking myself after the Ireland game because there were still eight more overs when I got out,” Sriharsha said after the match, reflecting on the disappointment of getting out for 25 one match earlier only to see USA spiral from 66 for 2 to 91 all out. “I knew that one of us have to stay. It’s not me or it’s not Disha. Whoever has the start has to stay the 20 overs. Currently the way our batting side is and the combinations we have, one of them will have to stay all 20 to get any runs on the board. So that was a conscious effort. I knew I had to keep scoring runs at a good strike rate but also be able to stay till the end.”
USA was under pressure early in the chase when Snigdha Paul was bowled for a six-ball duck to end the first over at 1 for 1, pushing away from her body playing for turn only to be defeated by an arm ball from Salma Khatun. Sriharsha entered and two more wickets fell not long after. Disha Dhingra called for a run from the non-striker’s end that Sriharsha was not expecting after middling a sweep straight to short fine leg. Sobhana Mostary relayed to Shohely Akhter standing over the stumps at the bowler’s end to complete a runout for 1. Anika Kolan was then bowled for a golden duck to start the fifth over by Nahida Akter, prodding flat-footed on the crease to make it 12 for 3.
From there, it was always going to be a Herculean task to achieve victory, but Sriharsha teamed with Ramjit to bring a measure of respectability back to the scorecard. Ramjit edged her fourth ball between the keeper and slip for her only boundary of her 26 not out off 41 balls, but after surviving the close shave focused on batting time and turning over the strike to Sriharsha whenever possible.
Sriharsha battled gamely through oppressive heat in the match starting at 3 pm, having already kept wicket for 20 overs in the field. But just when it looked like she was running out of steam on 47 off 55 balls after 16 overs with the score on 69 for 3, the USA captain found another gear and struck four of her eight boundaries across. The first one in that sequence brought up her half-century with a blistering drive off Akter over extra cover. She followed that next ball with a heave over wide long-on to the boundary once more. In the 18th, she shuffled across her stumps to scoop past fine leg for her seventh boundary before her final boundary came in the 19thpulling a full toss through midwicket.
The only chance in Sriharsha’s innings came in the final over when she pushed for a tired single and a runout chance was missed from extra cover on 72. Otherwise, she offered no chances in the air in what was a meticulously crafted innings that began with a trademark late cut through third man to the boundary to get her scoring underway before carrying through to the end.
“I definitely want to go back to what it was in Scotland [at the T20 World Cup Qualifier] in 2019,” Sriharsha said. “I learned a great deal when I played in Scotland. I think I put a lot more pressure on myself in 2019 trying to play a lot more conservative batting and I realized when we bat against bigger teams like this, we have to be a lot more positive. Having played Fairbreak over here as well, I’ve learned a great deal playing against some of the bigger batters who are trying to tell me that I have to manipulate the fields. I have the shots in me that I can manipulate the fields and play the bowler. More than just playing the ball itself, play the bowler.
“So definitely I’ve gone back after the Fairbreak experience and worked on it. This has definitely been a conscious effort. When I’ve gone back and worked the past couple of months, all I’ve done is to try and access that behind [square leg]. I’ve really just worked on that shot. I’m happy it’s coming ahead and I’m brave enough to try that. That’s something I’ve been telling myself. There’s no meaning in trying to hold back all my shots that I have in my book and playing defensive out there. We should be brave enough to go out there and play their shots. We’ve said that in the dressing room as well. We’re gonna back them. Go play your shots. If it doesn’t come your way, it’s completely fine. We are backing you to be more free and go out there and get their runs.”
USA restricted Bangladesh reasonably well in the Powerplay after Bangladesh had won the toss and chosen to bat first. USA had made one change to their lineup as Taranum Chopra came back into the lineup in place of Ritu Singh. Paul began her new ball spell with a maiden in the second before striking in the fourth, getting Shamima Sultana bowled for 10, beaten through the gate driving at an inswinger to make it 20 for 1.
But that would be the last moment of joy for USA in the field as they toiled through the next hour. Player of the Match Murshida Khatun and Bangladesh captain Nigar Sultana combined for a 138-run second wicket partnership, the second-highest in Bangladesh Women’s T20I history. Outside of a runout chance missed by Kolan from extra cover when Murshida was on 68 in the 18th over and a half-chance flicked by Murshida toward sub fielder Suhani Thadani at midwicket on 72 in the 19th, USA could not create any opportunities with the ball.
The Bangladesh pair were clinical and ruthless in their dismantling of USA’s bowling unit, highlighted by a 16-run over taken off USA vice-captain Geetika Kodali in the 12th. Kodali left the field for treatment from the USA physio immediately afterward and never returned to the field of play. After coasting to 56 for 1 in 10 overs, The duo clubbed 102 off the last 10 overs, capped off by a six over square leg from captain Sultana off Paul to end the innings. The captain had brought up her half-century with a scampered two off the previous ball through extra cover and ended on 56 not out off 40 balls with six fours and a six. Murshida brought up her half-century off 40 balls in the 14th over and ended unbeaten on 77 off 64 balls with nine boundaries. Paul was not only USA’s only wicket-taker but their most economical bowler too, ending with 1 for 24 in four overs.
USA finished as the only team to go winless in group play and will face Papua New Guinea, the third-place team from Group B in Friday’s cross-over playoffs in the fifth place semifinal match. PNG lost a heartbreaker to Thailand in their final Group B match, falling short by 12 runs having restricted Thailand to 93 for 8. Chanida Sutthiruang was named Player of the Match after rescuing Thailand from 46 for 6 in the 14th over and scored an unbeaten 36 off 32 balls after entering at No. 7.
PNG needed 23 off the final 18 balls with seven wickets in hand. But Sutthiruang conceded just four runs across the 18th and 20th to end with figures of 0 for 12 in four overs. Nattaya Boochatham delivered the knockout blow in the 19th over of the chase, taking three of her four wickets to decimate PNG after the pressure had been built up by Sutthiruang and PNG ended on 81 for 6.
USA’s contest against PNG starts at 7 pm local time in Abu Dhabi on Friday evening, 11 am EST in the USA.