Derby, July 16: Skipper Mithali Raj struck a sparkling century to help the Indian women's cricket team registered a clinical 186 run victory against New Zealand in the do-or-die final group tie of the ongoing Women's World Cup here on Saturday (July 15).
Leading from the Mithali scored 109 off 123 balls and helped resurrect India's innings after the openers departed cheaply at the County Ground here.
By virtue of their win against New Zealand, Indian eves marched into the semi-finals of the ongoing World Cup. India will now face defending champions Australia in the semis.
But the skipper didn't take the credit alone for the win and lauded the entire team for the magnificent win in a virtual quarter-final.
Talking about her team's performance in a must win game, Raj said, "I'm extremely happy because for a couple of us, this is going to be the last World Cup. So, our first aim was to qualify for the semis. I have always been happy to score runs for the country. I've always dreamed getting more and more runs because the hunger never dies."
Put in to bat, the 34-year-old stitched two century stands -- first a 132-run third wicket partnership with Harmanpreet Kaur (60 off 90, 7*4) and then joined forces with Veda Krishnamurthy (70 off 45, 7*4, 2*6) to add 108 runs. Raj also lauded the two for crucial partnerships.
"I think there were two important and crucial partnerships. One with Harmanpreet and the other with Veda. Her (Veda's) contribution was really very crucial. When you're chasing 250 plus there is always pressure," she added.
"Perfect response from the team after 2 losses to win against New Zealand and seal the semis spot against the Aussies," she later took to her Twitter handle after India's win.
Perfect response from the team after 2 losses to win against New Zealand and seal the semis spot against the Aussies. 😊👍🙏🙏 pic.twitter.com/BCndsARL92— Mithali Raj (@M_Raj03) July 15, 2017
India were off to a disastrous start, losing the early wickets of Smriti Mandana (13) and Punam Raut (4) to find themselves tottering at a precarious 21/2 by the eighth over.
Mithali, who on Saturday became the first Indian batswoman to notch 1000 World Cup runs, batted cautiously to steady the ship along with all-rounder Harmanpreet as the New Zealand bowlers kept testing the Indians with some tight line and length.
Already the highest run-getter in the 50-over format, she got to her sixth One-Day International (ODI) ton off 116 balls when she drove Leigh Kasperek between long-on and deep midwicket.
India capitalised the poor start in the middle overs, milking 16-year-old leg-spinner Amelia Kerr for 64 runs besides skipper Suzie Bates leaking 59 from her 8 overs.
Veda's innings towards the end was what India missed in the previous match against the Australians on Wednesday, as the right-hander gave the innings the much-needed acceleration, which included two towering sixes.