Chase it, lose it
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In her decade-long career, New Zealand's Nicola Browne has seen women's cricket overcome various barriers. But the pacer still struggles to mask her astonishment when she talks about the unprecedented events that transpired during the White Ferns' clash against their trans-Tasman rivals last December. It was the first ODI series, after all, that witnessed two scores of 250-plus being chased down successfully, including the highest-ever in history-289, which Australia went past with almost four overs to spare. This feat, overall, has only been achieved eight times in women's ODIs.
Browne began her career at a time when a team could feel safe once they had put 200 on the board. While the average score being overhauled might have gotten augmented in recent times, with 230 probably the par score, the formula for success in women's cricket still remains straightforward. Bat first, set a required rate of close to five runs an over, job done: which has been the case in the 10th edition of the Women's World Cup so far.
This inability of teams to handle the scoreboard pressure of colossal run-chases twice led to India's downfall, and eventually a humbling first-round exit. Against England and Sri Lanka, Mithali Raj's girls were set 270-plus targets, and both times they approached the task leaden-footed and dug themselves into an inescapable hole. They are not the only team to suffer from panic attacks while chasing during the first week of the tournament. Out of the five successful run-chases so far, only Sri Lanka managed to beat 230. And that too in a last-over skirmish in which England strangely lost their nerve.
T20 cricket might have produced some of the biggest hitters the women's game has ever seen, and the new ODI ruling of permitting only four fielders outside the 30-yard circle has had a critical impact on scoring rates at the World Cup. But women's cricket still remains a few steps behind in its development, in terms of teams holding their nerve while pursuing stiff targets.