HOSTS Australia were stunned by India in the opening game of the Women’s T20 World Cup in Sydney.
Chasing 133, the defending champions were bundled out for 115 thanks chiefly to leg-spinner Poonam Yadav, who claimed 4-19.
India’s 132-4, anchored by 49 not out from Deepti Sharma, seemed no more than par, but they exploited the slow conditions to win by 17 runs.
England open their campaign against South Africa tomorrow.
Heather Knight’s team were runners-up to Australia two years ago, but the home side now face the prospect of having to win their final three group matches in order to reach the semi-finals.
Given Group A also includes New Zealand — along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — it is far from certain that the favourites will make the last four.
This is the first time that separate T20 World Cups for men and women have been held in the same country in the same year, with the men’s version scheduled for October and November.
The women’s event is building towards a final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 8, when it is hoped the biggest crowd for any women’s sporting event will be in attendance.
That is far more likely if Australia reach the showpiece, but for the sake of the tournament as a whole, the stunning defeat of the heavy favourites on opening night adds much greater intrigue to the two weeks that follow.
Not only that, but is a huge boost to the constantly improving India team, for whom 16-year-old opener Shafali Verma sparkled, wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatiya dazzled and leg-spinner Poonam was masterful.
After an opening ceremony that included fireworks, a DJ, dancers and popular children’s music group The Wiggles, the entertainment of the cricket would not be surpassed.
Leg-spinner Poonam has long puzzled international batters, mainly because she bowls achingly slowly. The Sydney surface was ideally suited to her style.
She was not introduced until the 10th over, by which time Australia had eased to 58-2, and proceeded to confound the hosts with the support of wicketkeeper Bhatia.
Alyssa Healy chipped a return catch after reaching 50 with a six, but it was in Poonam’s following over when the game really turned in India’s favour.
First, Rachael Haynes ran past a googly to be stumped, then Ellyse Perry was bowled by a similar delivery for a golden duck. Poonam was denied a hat-trick when the diving Bhatia could not hold on to an edge from Jess Jonassen.
With 57 required from the final eight overs, Australia’s hopes rested on Ashleigh Gardner, but the required rate could not be controlled.
Gardner survived being bowled by Poonam off a delivery that was called a no-ball for bouncing twice, yet was faced with the prospect of taking 21 from the final over.
She skied a catch to bowler Shikhar Pandey and, when Molly Strano was run out off the penultimate ball of the match, a famous India win was complete. — BBC Sport