Melbourne: Judging by their tournament scorecards so far in the ongoing Women’s T20 World Cup, India don’t need to worry about the future of their batting order.
They have their own talented teenager in their ranks in Shafali Verma, who has taken the world by storm with her fearless opening displays in each of India’s three wins.
India defeated New Zealand by three runs to seal their spot in the semi-finals with a group game — against Sri Lanka — still left.
Her 46 runs against New Zealand took her tournament tally to 114 after three innings and at the age of just 16, she has already scripted a new record. No player has ever scored more runs at a higher strike rate at a single World Cup than the teenage prodigy with 172.72.
Her three quick-fire innings, where she hit 11 fours and eight sixes, have not only steered India to the semifinals of the World Cup, but also drawn praise from the format’s most successful batter in Suzie Bates.
“As a senior player, you love to see a youngster come out and hit the ball hard,” said Bates.
“I think India has been searching for someone like her at the top of the order for a long time. She’s just going to get better and better.
“I think we bowled reasonably well at her and got unlucky. She’s great for the game moving forward and for Indian cricket. She’s so young and has so many games ahead of her that she can dominate,” she added.
Verma may have already laid her stake as a future star of the women’s game, but, if anyone was going to rain on her parade in Melbourne, it just had to be New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr.
It truly was a tale of two teenagers as New Zealand’s 19-year-old leg-spinner was the only one able to stop Verma in her tracks, taking the innings-changing wicket in the 14th over to finish with figures of two for 21.
In doing so, Kerr broke yet more records — becoming the first player at a Women’s T20 World Cup to score at least 25 runs, take two wickets and two catches in the same match.
“Verma and Kerr are a similar sort of player,” said Bates.
“You don’t find many players who come into international cricket at the age of 16 around the world.
“We’ve got the likes of Sophie (Devine) who whacks it pretty hard when she gets the chance, but we love having youngsters come through who are able to do the same.”
Anyone who turned up to the Junction Oval to see Devine smash sixes would have left disappointed as the White Ferns skipper was dismissed for 14 after mistiming a full toss to point.
Her side were left reeling at 39 for there when their top order of Devine, Bates and Rachel Priest all fell before the halfway mark, and with the experienced Maddy Green and Katey Martin slow in picking up the pace, they knew it would take something special to produce a comeback.
But that’s where Kerr came in.
The game looked to be done and dusted but the 19-year-old defied all odds to set up a nerve-wracking finale, striking four boundaries in the penultimate over to put victory back on the table.
She couldn’t muster a final-ball six as New Zealand agonisingly missed out, but if her performance showed anything, it’s that New Zealand’s future batting order is in rude health.