Smriti Mandhana became the second Indian player in history to hit a century in their first Pink Ball Test, joining Virat Kohli as the other player to have ever achieved the feat.
Smriti Mandhana is acknowledged as one of the best players in women’s cricket in the modern era. The left-hander, known for her mixture of elegance and aggression, has been dominant in all formats. In ODIs, Mandhana is one of the best in the business. But, during the Pink Ball Test against Australia, Mandhana entered an elite list of players in the world. She blasted 22 fours and one six as she smashed a century in her first Test in Australia. The fact that it was a Pink Ball Test made the accomplishment even greater.
Mandhana blasted 127 and 94 runs came only in boundaries. The range of Mandhana’s strokes was simply magnificent. She pounced on the short ball as Australia simply wasted a good start in the conditions. In one over bowled by Darcie Brown, Mandhana blasted four fours all in the range of deep midwicket and deep backward point. Australia missed the lengths consistently as they bowled too full or too wide.
Mandhana was simply in the zone. She benefited from a no-ball from Ellyse Perry as Australia’s short-ball ploy backfired. When she bought up her century with a four off Perry, she had reached an elite list.
In the days before the match, Smriti Mandhana was gifted a bat by Rahul Dravid. That gift probably boosted Mandhana’s confidence to shine at the highest level. Mandhana thus became the 9th Indian women cricketer to hit a century in Tests. But, when one looks at the broader picture, she is in an elite company.
Mandhana is only the second Indian in history to hit a century in the Pink Ball Test. In fact, she is also the second Indian to hit a century on Pink Ball debut. Virat Kohli had hit 136 during India’s inaugural Day-Night Test against Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019. Incidentally, that was Kohli’s last century in any format since.
Mandhana is the second women cricketer to hit a century in the Pink Ball Test. In the first Pink Ball Test in 2017 during the Women’s Ashes Test at the North Sydney Oval, Ellyse Perry hit a double century.
The brilliance of Mandhana’s knock at the Gold Coast has resulted in social media showering plenty of love on the Sangli girl. Many labeled her the ‘Goddess of the offside’ due to her brilliant strokeplay. The fact that she can find the gap and play the short ball well makes her a total package.
In the last three years, when it comes to ODI cricket, Mandhana has averaged consistently over 50. The strike rate is also over 90. With a great average and strike rate, Mandhana has been consistently ensuring India gets great starts at the top. Along with her partner Shafali Verma, the Indian batting has gotten an aura of aggression and intimidation. In the last five years, even in the Twenty20 format, Mandhana has consistently scored at a strike rate of 130.
In 2021, her strike rate is 142 in the shortest format. The performances in the limited-overs format have translated into great success in Tests. During the series against England, she hit two fifties and was guilty of not converting a great start into a big score. Her scores of 51 and 78 in Wormsley and Bristol ensured that India ended the Test with a draw.
The left-hander has been the ultimate find for India in women’s cricket. It is her presence at the top that has transformed India and given the side aggression that was expected in Harmanpreet Kaur. With the veteran struggling for form and fitness, Mandhana along with Shafali are the new torch bearers for success in the next few years.
The century against Australia is one such instance of Mandhana showing her brilliance. Not many people succeed in Australia and against one of the greatest teams in the modern era. In the history of Australian women’s cricket which is now 87 years, only two teams have managed to beat Australia. England have won nine Tests against them with New Zealand winning the other one.
Australia have not lost a Test for close to seven years, having lost to England in Perth in 2014. Mandhana’s knock has given India the initiative and they can push for a win provided the bowlers fire. India’s performance in England and Australia is a massive reminder that women’s Tests are very important for the side. India need to play more Tests on a consistent basis. It is because of this that the likes of Mandhana and Shafali will be acknowledged as one of the best in the business. Mandhana’s Pink Ball Test exploits against the best side in the world are an indication of future greatness on a bigger platform.