Did India win or did the New Zealand women's side lose the crucial ICC Twenty20 World Cup match in Melbourne?

You can argue either way but the latter assertion is perhaps more pertinent after the White Ferns came up three runs shy at Junction Oval on Thursday.

The Kiwis had dropped teenage terror Shafali Verma twice — on 25 and 35 runs — as she went on to amass 46 runs from 34 balls but India needed only one opportunity to snaffle captain Sophie Devine's prized wicket and took it with the safe hands of Poonam Yadav, off a Radha Yadav delivery, for 14 runs from 21 balls.

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That's not to say New Zealand should ever be labelled a one-trick pony because the burden of victory doesn't and shouldn't ever rest entirely on the shoulders of Devine.

More often than not, the White Ferns' fielding is slick but this time a rash of dropped catches and mis-fields had crept in under pressure. They weren't normal times.

The pedantic will point to the three wides compared with India's one. Frankly the could have, would have and should have factors all lend credence to what constitutes a don't-argue victory.

The New Zealand women's cricket team will have little time to lament their first loss, to India, as Bangladesh and Australia beckon at Junction Oval, Melbourne, respectively. Photo / Photosport
The New Zealand women's cricket team will have little time to lament their first loss, to India, as Bangladesh and Australia beckon at Junction Oval, Melbourne, respectively. Photo / Photosport

As a teary-eyed Amelia Kerr showed, not taking the Kiwis to the brink of a blemish-free status will hurt for some days but the Bob Carter-coached unit will need to park those emotions smartly to return to the nets because there's definitely more tidying up required to stay in the playoffs equation.

It was a riveting encounter with India booking a semifinal berth with a 3-0 result. That leaves another nail-biter against hosts Australia on Monday but it'll be myopic to overlook banana-skin Bangladesh even if Australia were flogging them on Thursday night in the double-header to ominously boost their net run rate.

Devine was right in alluding to a fantastic job from her bowlers to restrict India to 8-133 in their allotted 20 overs after she had won the toss and got them to pad up.

She outlined the need to adjust to a more civil line and length with Hayley Jensen predictably stopping the rot before Kerr and Leigh Kasperek brought the rioters to heel as the last seven India wickets had tumbled for 43 runs.

She was defensive when commentator and ex-Windies international Ian Bishop asked if the White Ferns were victims of opener Devine's purple patch robbing batswomen down the order of crease time.

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"Not at all," she replied. "The way that they nearly played out that game today, I thought, was really fantastic."

Like it or not, sanity had kicked in with the arrival of No 4 Maddy Green and No 5 Katey Martin who had forged a partnership that had yielded 43 runs although the former had departed for 24 runs following a rush of blood when she charged spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad. The latter followed not long after for 25.

No 6 Kerr — resorting to some brilliant improvisation to counter Poonam Yadav to pass the batting IQ test as well — was unbeaten on 34 runs (19 balls) with No 7 Jensen (11no) coming precariously close to stealing the headlines in cricket-mad India, never mind in Australia and New Zealand.

"Maddy Green and Katey Martin spent some valuable time out there and then Amelia Kerr at the end there — I mean, jeez — they did a brilliant job to get us that close," Devine said.

However, the top order didn't go so well — opening batswoman Rachel Priest skied a lob wedge off Pandey in just nine deliveries into the run chase and Suzie Bates, at first drop, also losing her furniture cheaply to Deepti Sharma in trying to reverse paddle the ball straight into the neon stumps and bails.

Again the frugality stakes award in bowling went to India with five claiming a scalp each between 5 to 8 runs an over. Champion tweaker Poonam Yadav was the most expensive, thanks mostly to Kerr and India captain Harmanpreet Kaur's delayed response in changing the field to stop haemorrhaging runs.

"How we finished the innings to nearly chase down 50 in the last five [overs] on a wicket that was probably lower and slower than expected was great so we can't dwell on it too much," Devine said, stressing they couldn't sulk with the Bangladesh game up next.

Katey Martin helps bring some rhyme and reason to New Zealand's batting against India but can she add more value in opening at the T20 World Cup? Photo / Photosport
Katey Martin helps bring some rhyme and reason to New Zealand's batting against India but can she add more value in opening at the T20 World Cup? Photo / Photosport

No doubt, if India want to claim their maiden crown they need to maintain standards. It appeared as if they had dropped off in the field after Devine's wicket. They failed to back up and butchered a gimme run out.

Veteran Kiwi seamer Lea Tahuhu, using a better line and length, had sedentary opener Smriti Mandhana fishing a full delivery outside her off stump only to chop back on to her sticks for 11 runs.

Verma had tasted blood by then and had started dining out on two sixes and as many fours, prompting Devine to inject Jensen and Kerr but, regrettably, Green dropped her at long on.

The re-introduction of Hawke's Bay seamer Rosemary Mair in the 10th over saw promoted Taniya Bhatia depart for 23 runs after top edging a cut shot to Kerr at point.

Unfortunately, after another Green mis-field for four, it was Tahuhu's turn to grass what appeared to be a dolly at mid-on to give the terrorising teen another life off a Mair delivery.

However, Mair had Jemimah Rodrigues flop wedging to Kerr at point for 13 runs to leave India at 3-80 after 11.1 overs.

Slow bowler Kasperek did a sterling job to add value to Jensen and Kerr in frustrating Verma and Kaur with dot balls.

Not surprisingly Kaur's abysmal form continued as Kasperek enticed her into a false shot — caught and bowled for one run — to make one wonder how long the India coaching stable would persist with the skipper at the tourney.

Verma eventually went but Green's horror run continued, this time dropping Sharma near the boundary.

But Veda Krishnamurthy and Sharma came and went for parking meter change — 6 and 8, respectively — as the Kiwis tightened the screws. Jensen showed a safe pair of hands to a Devine delivery and Kerr had deftly laid down the lbw trap.

The fielding jitters continued for the White Ferns as wicketkeeper Priest dropped Pandey for nine runs off a thickish edge from a Kasperek delivery.

Kasperek, coming at third change after taking the new ball this summer, was the most thrifty at 1-19 (4.75 an over) with Kerr claiming 2-21 (5.25). Devine's 1-12 and Jensen's 2-21 kept them around the six-point-something mark but India had taken a shine to the rest of the seven-bowler rotation.

India opening batswoman Smriti Mandhana's lack of footwork while on a fishing expedition outside the off stump costs her her wicket at Junction Oval Melbourne, Australia. Photo / Photosport
India opening batswoman Smriti Mandhana's lack of footwork while on a fishing expedition outside the off stump costs her her wicket at Junction Oval Melbourne, Australia. Photo / Photosport

For what it's worth, India's lackadaisical attitude to running between wickets could prove costly when push comes to shove. They also can't keep banking on a teenager's instincts to bail them out all the time.

Pakistan had, after all, shown the day before how a side doesn't need sixes to prevail after stifling West Indies with crisp singles and doubles — punctuated by the odd boundary — to put their hand up as playoff contenders in pool B.

It is scary to think what damage India can do if they fire as a batting and bowling unit who can field and that may become prevalent when they take on Sri Lanka in a dead rubber at Junction Oval on Saturday.

Verma got the player of the match award but Pandey could feel a little short-changed due to some clinical death bowling.

Frankly, Kerr and Jensen could have easily shared the accolades if the rigid ritual of awarding it to the winners is relaxed to consider character and other such attributes.