Their confidence on a low after two consecutive defeats, India face a do-or-die situation when they take on New Zealand in what can be termed as a virtual quarterfinal of the ICC Women's World Cup here tomorrow. Hanging on to fourth spot on the points table, a loss tomorrow will shatter India's semifinal hopes. After starting the tournament on a promising note with four wins on the trot, India slumped to their second straight loss on Wednesday. At Bristol, they were defeated by a dominant Australia by eight wickets, despite a fighting century from Punam Raut, and a record breaking 69 from captain Mithali Raj. Whoever wins tomorrow will secure the last remaining semi-final spot with hosts England, South Africa and defending champions Australia already qualifying for the last last four. Heading into the last league games, England, South Africa and Australia will primarily play for position in the semi- final but for India and New Zealand it is a do-or-die situation. The Indians only have themselves to blame for their current situation as they batted unexpectedly slow on a track that was offering a bit of turn and grip. After the early dismissal of Smriti Mandhana, skipper Raj and Raut started slowly, allowing the Australian spinners to dictate terms. In trying to stabilise the innings after an early wicket, Raj, who became the highest ODI run-scorer during that knock and the first woman to score more than 6,000 ODI runs, played uncharacteristically slow, using up 54 balls for her first 20 runs, and finished on a 114-ball 69. Opener Mandhana's bat surprisingly became quite after impressive knocks in the first two games and India would be hoping for the left-hander to deliver the goods tomorrow set the platform for the innings. India would expect the likes of Mandhana, Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur, besides Deepti Sharma and Raj to fire in unison against the dangerous New Zealand. On the bowling front, pace spearhead Jhulan Goswami has looked a pale shadow of herself in the tournament so far and the Indians would be relying on their spinners -- Deepti, Ekta Bisht, Harmanpreet and Poonam Yadav to take the responsibility on their shoulders. Fielding too has been a problem area for India throughout the tournament.
In the first three games alone, the Indian eves dropped eight catches. In the game against South Africa, they allowed at least 10 runs on the field through misfields while against Australia, there were some very basic mistakes. Just like India, New Zealand too are facing a must-win situation and are currently lying at the fifth spot in the standings with seven points from eight games. New Zealand's 75-run loss to England in their last match has put them in a precarious position. The equation is simple for the White Ferns heading into the game against India. A loss will see them pack their bags while a win will knock India out. If New Zealand win and Australia beat South Africa by a big margin, they could also move to the third spot. Teams (from): India: Mithali Raj (captain), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smrti Mandhana, Mona Meshram, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Nuzhat Parween, Punam Raut, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma, Smriti Mandhana. New Zealand: Suzie Bates (captain), Amy Satterthwaite, Erin Bermingham, Sophie Devine, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Katey Martin, Thamsyn Newton, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu.
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