Smriti Mandhana powered India to 132/1 in 44.1 overs after rain washed out two sessions of the Pink Ball Test against Australia in Carrara on Thursday.
Meg Lanning won the toss and put India in to bat to draw out benefits from the grassy track, but it backfired with the Indians getting off to a solid start before rain played spoilsport.
Here are the talking points from the day’s play:
AUS-W vs IND-W Pink Ball Test Day 1 Highlights: Rain washes out play after Mandhana and Raut take India to 132/1
1. India boosted by strong opening stand: Mandhana and Shafali Verma switched roles in a way, with Smriti finding the boundaries from the word go. In contrast, Verma looked very uncertain for most parts of her innings, struggling to middle the ball and play the explosive shots that she is known for. Despite the extremes, the duo came together for a 93-run opening partnership (57 of those coming off Smriti’s bat). This duo has batted together thrice in Test cricket with this being their second 50-plus partnership at the top.
2. Pace strategy fails, spinners to the rescue: The Metricon Stadium sported a green strip for the game with Australia fielding four pacers (Stella Campbell, Ellyse Perry, Darcie Brown, Annabel Sutherland and Tahlia McGrath) and three spinners (Georgia Wareham, Ashleigh Gardner, Sophie Molineux). The strategy did not pay the dividends the team anticipated with Mandhana in particular comfortably finding the boundary. At one point, she had hit all of the boundaries the team had scored (seven), scoring 90 per cent of her runs simply by finding the ropes. India was comfortably cruising at 70/0 in 15 overs when spin was first introduced in the attack. Only then did the host manage to stagger the run flow and dial down the pace of the Indian innings. Molineux took the lone wicket that fell on day 1 with Shafali holing out to McGrath at mid-off. Wareham not being used was a surprise, given the effectiveness of the spinners. Meg Lanning pins this on the mere 44 overs managed on day 1. The spinner will have her work cut out for her on day 2, with conditions expected to be similar if not worse.
3. Tardiness on the field: Australia’s performance on the field was ordinary at best. Shafali was dropped twice before Molineux finally sent her back to the pavilion while quite a few edges fell just short of Lanning in the slips. Mandhana for a long time did not have a slip fielder assigned to her, which was odd given the number of times she edged the ball into that region. Despite the flurry of runs, Mandhana’s batting patterns have been largely similar to what was on display in the ODI series and one will expect Australia will adapt its field settings to manage her wicket, and perhaps even deny her a triple digit score.
AUS v IND Pink Ball Test: Mandhana scores career-best 80 as India finish rain-hit Day 1 on 132/1
4. Rain plays spoilsport: There were storm predictions for the Queensland region for the first two days of this Test. While the clouds gave way for clear skies at the start of the match, conditions were largely overcast nearing the end of the first session. The conditions did not have much of an impact on the game with Australia resorting to its spin arsenal to control the scoring rate. However, two sessions of the day were washed out due to the conditions. With the forecast staying the same for day 2, expect more interruptions in what is turning out to be a riveting contest between the two sides.