Harmanpreet Kaur-led Team India to bank on spinners in Mumbai

On Thursday, 21 December, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led India would set their sights on registering a first — A Test match win against Australia, when the two teams face off for the only Test at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. India are coming off a thumping 347-run win over England in a one-off Test at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.

India, however, have not beaten Australia in a Test match across 10 matches and 46 years, be it home or away, and there is no better opportunity for the hosts to do so. Having said that, the pitch at Wankhede is expected to assist the spinners.

The Indian bowlers, especially offie Deepti Sharma, showed remarkable ruthlessness against England while scoring a mammoth 347-run win at the DY Patil Stadium last week, biggest in terms of runs in women’s Test history, and they would like to reproduce that burning streak against the Aussies too.

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But India’s bowling has more sharp edges to it than Deepti.

Renuka Singh Thakur is building a reputation of making early inroads with the new ball since her return from injury and fellow-pacer Pooja Vastrakar also warmed-up with a three-wicket burst against England.

India’s batting also looks to be in safe hands with Harmanpreet Kaur (49 and 44 not out), Jemimah Rodrigues (68) and Yastika Bhatia (66) making good impact against England.

However, India would want opener Smriti Mandhana to join the party with a big knock here at the Wankhede Stadium against the Aussies.

But India could be without left-handed Shubha Satheesh, who suffered a dislocation and hairline fracture after a scintillating debut fifty against England.

Priya Punia has joined the Indian squad as a cover but Harleen Deol, who had an extended nets on Tuesday, could get the nod.

Back to playing Test cricket in India after a gap of almost 40 years, Australia have indeed ventured in to the unknown and the task looks uphill for the newly-appointed skipper Alyssa Healy and her side.

Incidentally, it was here at the Wankhede that India and Australia had played their last women’s Test on these shores in February 1984.

The last Test between India and Australia was played two years ago at Carrara, in which Smriti Mandhana’s first-innings 127 helped Women in Blue to secure a draw.

Healy has taken the mantle of Australian leadership from Meg Lanning and playing a Test against India in their backyard would be a massive test for at the beginning of her tenure.

But Australia’s think-tank has a problem of plenty given the quality of all-rounders in their side which includes the experienced Ellyse Perry, Ashleigh Gardner, Beth Mooney and Tahlia McGrath.

Australia will look to lean on their white-ball experience in India which also includes stints in the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) earlier this year for some of them.

But playing red-ball cricket on slow turners can be too hot a job to handle for any visiting side.

Squads:

India: Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Smriti Mandhana (VC), Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Richa Ghosh (wk), Sneh Rana, Shubha Satheesh, Harleen Deol, Saika Ishaque, Renuka Singh Thakur, Titas Sadhu, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar

Australia: Darcie Brown, Lauren Cheatle, Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Alyssa Healy (C & WK), Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney (wk), Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham.

Match starts at 9:30am IST.

With inputs from PTI

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