India eves win 5th ODI, avoid NZ whitewash

India eves win 5th ODI, avoid NZ whitewash

It was important that Harman got runs; bowlers took a while to get used to conditions: Smriti

Queenstown: Harmanpreet Kaur struck a much-needed half-century to get back among the runs as the Indian women's cricket team finally managed to beat New Zealand in the series-ending fifth ODI for a consolatory six-wicket win here on Thursday.

Star India batter Smriti Mandhana said it was important from the team's perspective that Harmanpreet Kaur found form ahead of the Women's World Cup and the struggling bowling unit needs to build on the performance it produced in the fifth ODI.

Harmanpreet scored her first half century in close to 12 months to help India chase down 251 rather comfortably. Mandhana, who missed the first three ODIs due to quarantine requirements, struck 71 and skipper Mithali Raj remained unbeaten on 57.

"It has been a tough month for us as a team and for the three of us who were in quarantine (Renuka and Meghna Singh being the other two). It is good to be back in the open air, play some cricket and contribute for India," said Mandhana in the post match press conference.

Mandhana revealed that she joined the team later in New Zealand due to "personal problems" and that is why she completed the MIQ much later after the rest of the team. The bowling proved to be the weakest link in the series India lost 1-4 with the visitors unable to defend even 270.

On Thursday, it was another impressive batting performance as India chased down the target in 46 overs. "We needed a good base to chase 250 and that is what we were looking for. Batting first, we are getting good scores around 250. Of course we are not getting the wins. It is something we are working on, defending totals.

"We will get better. That is the talk in the camp and I am sure it will happen in the World Cup," said the southpaw. India open their World Cup campaign against Pakistan on March 6.

Talking about Harmanpreet's return to form, Mandhana said: "It was really important for the team. It was good to see her playing all those shots she was playing.

"I was just happy to watch that from the other end. For the team going into the World Cup, it was really important that both of us score and get confidence with all other batters," she said.

Mandhana, who did not discuss cricket with Harmanpreet on purpose when she was struggling for runs, said the mood in the camp remained positive despite five losses in a row including the one off T20.

"I think all the girls are really disconnected from the outside noise. Everyone was really positive when we joined the team later. All were keen to go out and work hard. This win is going to give us a boost."

The left-hander also said pace mainstay Jhulan Goswami did not play all the games as part of workload management. "We need fresh legs going into the World Cup," said Mandhana.

"The bowlers did amazing today. Bowled as per plan. It was good to see. Overall in the series, it has been tough conditions to bowl in, flat wickets and good outfield. It took a while for them to figure how to bowl in these conditions.

"The bowling partnerships were amazing today, especially between 20-40 overs, something we were lacking," said Mandhana.

Fielding coach Shubhodeep Ghosh added that players can do better with execution of run outs but lauded them for improving significantly from game one to game five.

Brief scores:

New Zealand Women 251/9 in 50 overs (Amelia Kerr 66, Sophie Davine (34); Rajeshwari Gayakwad (2/61), Deepti Sharma (2/42), Sneh Rana (2/40) lost to India Women 252/4 off 46 overs (Smriti Mandhana 71, Harmanpreet Kaur (63) and Mithali Raj 54 not out; Hannah Rowe 1/41) by six wickets.

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