Sport

Nerveless Mithali Raj steers India to last-gasp victory over England

India pulled off a memorable last-over victory against England in the third ODI at Worcester yesterday, chasing down 220 with three balls to spare to bring up their first win of the multi-format series.

Captain Mithali Raj finished unbeaten on 75 not out from 86 balls, along the way becoming the leading run-scorer of all-time in women’s internationals. At the other end, England’s nemesis in the Bristol Test, Sneh Rana, scored an audacious 24 from 22. She was bowled by Sophie Ecclestone with six balls remaining, but with India needing six from the final over, Mithali stole the strike and hit Katherine Brunt for a final boundary through point to seal the deal.

“It’s a frustrating end to the series,” Heather Knight said. “In the field we didn’t keep our composure as much as we should have. But we’ll learn a bit more from today than we did the first two games, which isn’t a bad thing.”

India had raced to 42 without loss in the first eight overs, but Kate Cross seamed her sixth ball of the day gently away from Shafali Verma (19), who toe-ended it to Knight at cover.

Verma’s opening partner, Smriti Mandhana, who had showcased the silkiest cover drive in women’s cricket on her way to 49 from 57 balls, fell one run short of a half-century shortly afterwards, trapped lbw playing across the line to Sarah Glenn as India sank to 165 for 5. With the tourists needing 55 from the final seven overs, victory looked improbable but India pulled it back brilliantly.

Earlier, England had themselves been reduced to 163 for five, but added 56 runs across the final 10 overs to end with a flourish. Sophia Dunkley (28 from 35) once again played her part, gathering singles and reverse sweeping Sharma for four before the off-spinner – who finished with three for 47 – bowled her around her legs.

Kate Cross, though, belted Sharma’s last over for 13, including the first six of her international career, powered over the long off fence, helping England rocket their total clear of 200 – not a bad effort from someone whose place was far from secure at the start of the series.

Put in to bat for the first time in the series, England had spent much of their innings struggling to score against the Indian spin attack on a day that began with torrential downpours and saw the start of play delayed by 90 minutes, with the overs reduced to 47 apiece.

This is a side who pride themselves on batting at a strike rate of 80 or above in ODI cricket, but the scorecard did not reflect that ambition : England went from the 27th to the 43rd over without scoring a single boundary.

Early on, Tammy Beaumont had registered her first duck in ODIs since November 2016, trapped lbw by Shikha Pandey’s inswinger in the second over of the day to leave England on 1 for one. While Lauren Winfield-Hill then cashed in against Pandey, punishing her for 12 runs off one over – her three drives to the boundary each more beautifully struck than the last – the runs dried up with the introduction of spin from each end.

Ultimately six of England’s top seven batters fell to spin, frustration often prevailing over common sense: Winfield-Hill and Knight were caught in the deep attempting the sweep, while Amy Jones handed Deepti Sharma the first of her three scalps, advancing down the ground only to send a catch straight to the substitute fielder Radha Yadav at deep midwicket.

Only Nat Sciver (49) batted with any sustained fluency, but her innings was brought to an end one run short of a half-century by an incredible catch from Mandhana, diving full stretch to her left as she ran round from deep midwicket.

The win puts the series scoreline 6-4 in England’s favour, with three T20s still to play.