Cuttack: Skipper Mithali Raj finally came good with an unbeaten century as India women beat arch-rivals Pakistan by six wickets in a seventh place play-off encounter in the ICC Women's World Cup here on Thursday.
Already out of contention after being hammered by Sri Lanka Women, the 'Women in Blue' came up with a much improved performance as they first restricted Pakistan to 192 for seven in 50 overs and then reached the target in 46 overs at the Barabati Stadium. Skipper Mithali, who had been in woefully out of form, helped herself back into form with an unbeaten 103 off 141 balls with the help of 13 boundaries and a six. The only regret she would have is that her best came when it mattered the least.
Mithali added 87 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand with Reema Malhotra, who remained undefeated on 25. The India Women were in a spot of bother at 108 for four but the Indian captain found an able ally in Malhotra as they comfortably won their last game of the tournament with consumate ease. Mithali also enjoyed couple of useful stands of 43 and 49 with opener Thirush Kamini (26) and Harmanpreet Kaur (16).
Earlier, the decision to bat first after winning the toss didn't quite work for Pakistan Women, who were saved to a large extent due to the contrasting half-centuries from Nain Abidi (58) and Nida Dar (68 not out). The Indians bowlers, led by the economical pace duo of Jhulan Goswami (2/17) and Nagarajan Niranjana (3/35), kept it tight for most part of the 50 overs.
The hosts, who were knocked out of the event after being stunned by minnows Sri Lanka Women in a must-win group match, were off to a perfect start when they sent back the Pakistani openers with just 28 runs on the board in 11 overs. But Abidi steadied the rocking boat by forging a small 32-run partnership with Bimah Maroof (15). Then came the crucial 80-run stand with Dar, which brought Pakistan back into the match.
Dar was the more aggressive of the two batters, striking seven fours in her 83-ball knock. Abidi faced 113 balls and struck five fours before being out caught by Thirush Kamini off Goswami's bowling. After the settled partnership was broken, Pakistan could not accelerate in the closing stages faced with a disciplined Indian attack.
For India, Ekta Bisht also chipped in with a wicket even though she was tad expensive, conceding 50 runs in her nine overs.