A sparkling innings from Smriti Mandhana helped India seal an ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 semi-final spot with a rain-affected five-run victory over Ireland.
Mandhana cashed in on being afforded several lives by Irish fielders to strike a career-best T20I score of 87 from 56 deliveries as India posted 155 for six in Gqeberha, with Laura Delany (3/33) and Orla Prendergast (2/22) the pick of the Ireland attack.
Ireland lost two wickets in the first over of the chase but Delany and Gaby Lewis were rebuilding effectively until the rain arrived with Ireland on 54 for two in the ninth over, five runs shy of the DLS par score.
India knew victory would seal the second qualification spot from Group 2 alongside England, and maintain their hopes of topping the group, and they opted to bat upon winning the toss.
Mandhana was quickly into her stride, picking up her first boundary in the third over with a trademark off-drive which whistled to the fence.
She ended the powerplay with another off-drive for four before being dropped twice in as many overs, Cara Murray unable to hold on to a chance at mid-off before Georgina Dempsey spilled a routine chance at deep mid-wicket.
Shafali Verma also survived an opportunity, put down by wicketkeeper Mary Waldron, but Hunter made no mistake running in from deep square leg midway through the 10th over to provide Ireland and Delany with a much-needed breakthrough.
Harmanpreet Kaur joined Mandhana in the middle and both soon brought up personal milestones, Kaur becoming just the fourth woman to pass 3000 runs in T20Is before Mandhana moved to her half-century with the first six of the innings.
Ireland then fought back through Delany’s quickfire double breakthrough, Kaur falling for 13 before Richa Ghosh picked out Lewis at long-off from her first legitimate delivery.
Mandhana was dropped twice more as she upped the tempo towards the end of the innings, clearing the ropes on two further occasions to leapfrog Alyssa Healy at the top of the competition’s leading run-scorer chart.
Just as a century looked on, however, she launched Prendergast to long-on where Lewis held on to spark another mini wobble, Deepti Sharma becoming the second batter to fall first ball.
Pooja Vastrakar survived the hat-trick ball and Jemimah Rodrigues took 10 from the final over as India finished with a momentum which continued into the chase as two wickets fell in the opening five balls.
Hunter was first to go, run out after being called through for a second run which never looked on, before Prendergast was clean bowled by a deadly Renuka Thakur in-swinger.
Lewis and Delany responded strongly, the former making good use of sweeps and reverse sweeps to help carry Ireland to 44 for two at the end of the powerplay, a run better than India had been at the same stage.
The weather soon scuppered their hopes of a famous victory, however, while also eliminating Pakistan and West Indies in the process as India secured a spot in a semi-final which looks set to provide a re-run of the 2020 final against Australia.
Scores in brief
India 155/6, 20 overs (Smriti Mandhana 87, Shafali Verma 24; Laura Delany 3/33, Orla Prendergast 2/22)
Ireland 54/2, 8.2 overs (Gaby Lewis 32 not out; Renuka Singh 1/10)
Result: India win by five runs (DLS)