Skipper Mithali Raj slammed a century before left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad returned with a five-wicket haul as India crushed New Zealand by 186 runs to storm into the semi-finals of the ICC Women's World Cup in Derby on Saturday.
Put in to bat, India recovered from an early wobble to score a challenging 265/7 in their final league match, riding on a 132-run stand between Mithali (109) and Harmanpreet Kaur (60) and a quick-fire 70 by Veda Krishnamurthy.
India then produced a superb bowling display to dismiss the Kiwis for just 79 in 25.3 overs.
Left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad (5/15) was the pick of the bowlers with her five-wicket haul, while Deepti Sharma (2/26) scalped two and Jhulan Goswami (1/14), Shikha Pandey
(1/12) and Poonam Yadav (1/12) also chipped in with timely dismissals.
Gayakwad said of her feat: "I was out for six games but I didn't feel bad. We were doing so well, I was happy. When I got the chance, I wanted to give my all. This is my best performance, I hadn't taken a five-for previously, so this is special."
Chasing 266 for a win, New Zealand lost two early wickets with both openers Suzie Bates (1) and Rachel Priest (5) back in the hut in 3 overs.
At 7 for 2, Katey Martin (12) joined Amy Satterthwaite but the former was dismissed by spinner Deepti Sharma in her first over as New Zealand were reduced to 27/3 in the 11th over.
Satterthwaite was then dismissed in the 18th over with Sushma Verma producing a brilliant stumping off Rajeshwari Gayakwad's bowling. The Kiwi's 47-ball 26-run innings included four boundaries.
Katie Perkins (1) too was sent back quickly with Sharma cleaning her up as New Zealand lost half their side for 52/5 in the 19th over.
Gayakwad then dealt two more quick blows, removing Sophie Devine (7) and Hannah Rowe (4) as New Zealand were staring down the barrel at 62/7 in 21.5 overs.
In the next over, Maddy Green was dismissed by Poonam Yadav, while Lea Tahuhu became the fourth victim of Gayakwad, who also cleaned up last batswoman Leigh Kasperek (0) to complete her five-wicket haul.
With figures of 5 for 15 she bested Ekta Bisht’s figures (5/18) during the match against Pakistan earlier in the competition.
India will take on Australia in the second semi-finals on July 20 at the same venue -- Derby -- after finishing third in the league stage with 10 points. Host England will play South Africa in the first semi-finals on July 18 at Bristol.
Earlier, captain Mithali Raj led from the front with a magnificent century as India recovered from an early wobble to set a challenging total of 265 for 7 against New Zealand in their final league match of the ICC Women's World Cup in Derby, UK, on Saturday.
Sent into bat, India were reduced to 21 for 2 in the eighth over but a 132-run stand between Mithali (109) and Harmanpreet Kaur (60) for the third wicket brought them back into the match.
Then, a brilliant quick-fire 70 off just 45 balls by Veda Krishnamurthy took India past 260. Krishnamurthy enlivened the contest with some big shots, scoring above run-a-ball. Her 70 had seven fours and two sixes.
But, the highlight of the virtual knock-out match was Mithali's sixth ton in her 184th match and her 109 came from 123 balls and had 11 fours in it.
Mithali, who in the earlier match against Australia became the highest run-getter in ODIs and first batswoman to reach 6000 runs, continued with her purple patch in the tournament.
She has already hit three half centuries and a 46 not out, besides today's ton, from the seven matches she has played so far.
Coming in the eighth over at the team score of 21-2 at the fall of opener Smriti Mandhana (13), Mithali anchored the Indian innings magnificently.
he first steadied the Indian innings with Harmanpreet after the initial loss of two wickets and then took her side to an advantageous position before being dismissed in the final over.
She found an able ally in Harmanpreet, who made a crucial contribution despite her slow batting. Harmanpreet consumed 90 balls for her 60 and hit seven fours.
India were going strong at 152 for 2 in the 36th over but
New Zealand struck back with two quick wickets -- Harmanpreet and Deepti Sharma (0) -- but that did not bother them.
Krishnamurthy gave impetus to the Indian innings towards the close and she was by far the most aggressive batswomen, always looking for the big shots. She was out in the penultimate delivery.
In fact, India lost three wickets in the final over, in the space of four deliveries, for eight runs.
For New Zealand, off-spinner Leigh Kasperek, who first used the new ball, was the most successful bowler with three wickets while pacers Hannah Rowe and Lea Tahuhu took two and one wicket respectively.
India captain Mithali Raj was happiness personified.
"Extremely happy. For a couple of us, this will be the last World Cup, so our first aim was to enter semi-finals," said Mithali, who was adjudged the player of the match for her 109.
"I've always dreamt of getting runs for the country. The hunger never dies. There were two vital stands, with Harmanpreet and Veda (Krishnamurthy). After the Powerplays, we needed more runs. Her (Krishnamurthy's) 70 was as important as my 100. Harmanpreet's knock was important too," she said.
"If you're aiming to be in the top four teams in the world, you have to come back after defeats. In the previous World Cups we had not done that, so it was important to fire today," Mithali said.