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Women's World Cup: India crush New Zealand by 186 runs to book semi-final berth

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A sixth career century by Mitahli Raj and a maiden five-for by left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad steered India into its third ICC Women’s World Cup semi-final with a convincing 186-run victory over New Zealand on the last day of the round matches in Derby on Saturday.

India’s victory and South Africa’s 59-run loss to Australia in Taunton meant India finished third on the points table behind host England and defending champion Australia (England finished ahead of Australia on Net Run-Rate). South Africa ended up fourth, while New Zealand, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan finished in the second half of the eight-team tournament and will now take early flights home. Saturday’s results mean England and Australia are on course to square-off against each other in the final at Lord’s on Sunday, 23 July, after England set a semi-final date with South Africa in Bristol on Tuesday, 18 July, while defending champion Australia scheduled a meeting with India in the second semi-final in Derby on Thursday, 20 July.

While Australia, England and South Africa had already sealed their places in the last four of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, all eyes were focused at Derby where India and New Zealand took on each other in the winner-takes-all match.

And India captain Mitahli Raj and left-arm Rajeshwari Gayakwad produced their best performances of the tournament to deny New Zealand a place in the top four for the first time since the inception of the tournament in 1973.

Raj, who had earlier in the week become the most successful batter in women’s cricket, scored 109 to lift her side to 265 for seven and then Gayakwad returned figures of 7.3-1-15-5 as New Zealand was spun out for 79 in 25.3 overs.

New Zealand captain Suzie Bates won the toss and put India into bat. The decision looked to be spot on after India lost both its openers with the scoreboard reading 21 in 7.4 overs.

But then walked in Mithali Raj and turned the game on its head with some outstanding display of stroke-selection. The right-hander faced 123 balls and struck 11 boundaries while scoring 109. This was her sixth century in her 184th ODI.

Raj featured in two century partnerships with Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy. For the third wicket with Kaur, Raj added 132 runs while she put on 108 runs for the fifth wicket with Krishnamurthy.

Kaur scored an excellent 60 that came off 90 balls and included seven fours, while Krishnamurthy struck seven fours and two sixes in an electrifying 70 off 45 balls.

It was Krishnamurthy who accelerated things in the last 10 overs as India collected 90 runs after it was 175 for four after 40 overs with Raj unbeaten on 85 and Krishnamurthy batting on seven.

In the chase of a 266-run target, New Zealand put up a forgettable batting performance, getting bundled out for 79 in just over 25 overs.

New Zealand lost both its openers in the first three overs before Amy Satterthwaite (26) and Katey Martin (12) took the score to 27. At that stage, Deepti Sharma (two for 26) provided the breakthrough by dismissing Martin and then Gayakwad ran through the White Ferns’ batting with some superb display of spin bowling as New Zealand lost its last eight wickets for 52 runs in nearly 15 overs.

The 26-year-old Gayakwad from Karnataka accounted for Satterthwaite, Sophie Devine, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu and Leigh Kasperek to finish with figures of 7.3-1-15-5. This was the best bowling figures of the tournament to date.

This is the third time India has reached the semi-final after having previously qualified for the last four in 1997, 2000 and 2009. It had finished fourth in 1978, 1982 and 1993, second in 2005 in South Africa and seventh when it staged the event in its backyard in 2013.

Scores in brief:
India beat New Zealand by 186 runs in Derby
India 265-7, 50 overs (Mithali Raj 109, Veda Krishnamurthy 70, Harmanpreet Kaur 60; Leigh Kasperek 3-45, Hannah Rowe 2-30)
New Zealand 79 all out, 25.3 overs (Amy Satterthwaite 26; Rajeshwari Gayakwad 5-15, Deepti Sharma 2-26)
Player of the match – Mithali Raj (India)