Captain Mithali Raj led from the front with a magnificent century as India recovered from an early wobble to score a challenging 265 for 7 against New Zealand in their final league match of the ICC Women's World Cup here today. Sent into bat, India were reduced to 21 for 2 in the eighth over but a 132-run stand between Mithali (109) and Harmanpreet Kaur (60) for the third wicket brought them back into the match. Then, a brilliant quick-fire 70 off just 45 balls from the bat of Veda Krishnamurthy took India past 260. Krishnamurthy enlivened the contest with some big shots, scoring above run-a-ball.
Her 70 had seven fours and two sixes. But, the highlight of the virtual knock-out match was Mithali's sixth ton in her 184th match and her 109 came from 123 balls and had 11 fours in it. Mithali, who in the earlier match against Australia became the highest run-getter in ODIs and first batswoman to reach 6000 runs, continued with her purple patch in the tournament. She has already hit three half centuries and a 46 not out, besides today's ton, from the seven matches she has played so far. Coming in the eighth over at the team score of 21-2 at the fall of opener Smriti Mandhana (13), Mithali anchored the Indian innings magnificently. She first steadied the Indian innings with Harmanpreet after the initial loss of two wickets and then took her side to an advantageous position before being dismissed in the final over. She found an able ally in Harmanpreet, who made a crucial contribution despite her slow batting. Harmanpreet consumed 90 balls for her 60 and hit seven fours. India were going strong at 152 for 2 in the 36th over but New Zealand struck back with two quick wickets -- Harmanpreet and Deepti Sharma (0) -- but that did not bother them. Krishnamurthy was there to give impetus to the Indian innings towards the close and she was by far the most aggressive batswomen as she was always looking for big shots. She was out in the penultimate delivery. In fact, India lost three wickets in the final over, in the space of four deliveries, for eight runs. For New Zealand, off-spinner Leigh Kasperek, who first used the new ball, was the most successful bowler with three wickets while pacers Hannah Rowe and Lea Tahuhu took two and one wicket respectively.
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