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Mithali Raj calls on team to step up ahead of New Zealand clash

Bristol [UK]: After suffering a crushing eight-wicket loss against Australia in their round-robin match of the ongoing Women’s World Cup, India skipper Mithali Raj has called on her team to step up and improve their performance in what would be a virtual quarter-final against New Zealand on July 15.

Raj made ODI history in Bristol on Wednesday but it was Australia who booked its place in the semi-finals of the prestigious tournament at The County Ground.

India skipper Raj surpassed Charlotte Edwards’s record run total of 5,992 in one-day internationals during her 69, and while Poonam Raut also notched up a century, it was not enough with Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry unbeaten for Australia on 76 and 60 respectively.

“Obviously we now have a decider ahead against New Zealand to get to the semi-finals. As a team, we have to step up, as if we perform again like this it will not be enough,” said the India skipper.

“We really have to improve all over the pitch, especially producing more consistency from how we are bowling and fielding,” she added.

Australia opted – as it has done throughout the tournament – to open with spin, and Lanning’s decision paid off almost immediately.

Smriti Mandhana’s scratchy innings came to an end in the fourth over; having already survived top-edging Megan Schutt over the slips, she nicked Ashleigh Gardner behind to Alyssa Healy (making her 50th ODI appearance) for three.

But that brought Raj to the crease needing just 34 runs to break Edwards’ record, and alongside Raut she got to work.

Both started slowly with India taking 18 overs to reach 50, but they accelerated expertly in a 157-run partnership.

Raj, who survived two reviews during her innings, got to another milestone as she smashed an impressive six back over Kristen Beams’ head to become the first woman ever to pass 6,000 ODI runs.

However both Raj and Raut (106 off 136 balls) were dismissed as they looked to push their side towards 250.

Instead, India had to make do with 226 for seven, with Perry (two for 37) the pick of the Australian bowlers who combined to claim five wickets for just 17 runs towards the end of the innings.

Nicole Bolton (36) and Beth Mooney (45) got Australia’s chase off to a solid start with an opening stand of 62, before Poonam got the breakthrough as Bolton went for a big sweep.

She could only feather Poonam through to Sushma Verma, and while Aussie skipper Lanning oozed confidence – finding the boundary with regularity – Mooney was then run out thanks to a superb Deepti Sharma throw.

But from there on Australia, and particularly Lanning, was in complete control. The skipper brought up her half-century off 55 balls and was supported ably by Perry, with the pair both finishing not out.

Australia assured itself of advancing along with England and South Africa, who won their respective matches against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. (ANI)