The White Ferns' hopes of winning the Twenty20 World Cup have suffered a major blow.

A 34-run defeat at the hands of India has severely dented the White Ferns' chances of making the semifinals, with Wednesday's clash against Australia now profiling as a must-win if they wish to keep their dream alive.

The problem with that is obvious. This Australian team is world class – talked about as potentially the greatest ever Australian women's side – and they have already claimed three comfortable victories over the White Ferns in their warm-up games last month.

It's a daunting equation, because falling into a 0-2 hole would require the Ferns to beat both Pakistan and Ireland (likely), while hoping Pakistan could tip over India (rather unlikely), if they were to have any slim chance of making the semifinals.

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White Ferns captain Amy Satterthwaite is aware of the sizeable task her side faces after the opening loss.

"I think it's pretty obvious - we know that we've got to win. I think every game is a must-win. We knew coming into this tournament, we talked about it yesterday - how important today was.

"We haven't had the best start, but it's still early days and we know we've still got an opportunity."

They're in a precarious position though, and that's because of Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur.

Kaur arrived with her side in a bit of strife at 41-3 after six overs, after Lea Tahuhu (2-18 from three overs) and Leigh Kasperek (1-28 from four) took the top off the Indian order.

14 overs later, Kaur had become the first Indian woman to score a Twenty20 century, and just the third woman to hit a hundred at the World Cup, smashing an astonishing 103 from only 51 deliveries.

Supported by 18-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues (59 off 45 balls), the pair added 134 for the fourth wicket, taking particular liking to the bowling of Hayley Jensen and Jess Watkin as the run rate skyrocketed.

The Ferns also missed out on multiple opportunities to use the Decision Review System, the biggest let-off being when replays showed Rodrigues would have been given out lbw to Tahuhu on two, but New Zealand opted not to use their one referral.

Rodrigues and Kaur made them pay, and India's eventual total – 194-5 – was always going to be incredibly tough to chase down, but Suzie Bates gave it her best crack.

New Zealand's greatest short-form exponent smacked 67 off 50 balls, but she didn't get much assistance. Only a late flurry from Katey Martin (39 off 25) saw any other Fern reach 20, as a steady flow of wickets pegged back their attempts at a realistic chase.

With the run rate required never falling below 9.6, the White Ferns never got into a position of strength, eventually succumbing well short as keeping pace proved too tough of a challenge.

With Australia on the way though, the challenges aren't going to get any easier.