Keeping up with the blockbuster tag, Australia beat India by five runs in a thrilling encounter in Newlands to make the final of the Women’s T20 World Cup. Captain Meg Lanning called the victory “one of the best” she has been involved in as Australia made the final of the T20 World Cup for the seventh time in succession.
The semi-final swung either way, first in favour of Australia when they racked up 172 after opting to bat, and then comfortably in India’s half when Harmanpreet Kaur was doing what she does best against Australia in a World Cup. Only this time, her bat got stuck in the ground and consigned her to a run-out after a scintillating innings of 52 off 34. “Can’t be unluckier than that,” she would say after the game, explaining just why she was teary-eyed in the dugout.
In the end, that flat throw from Ashleigh Gardner in the deep turned out to be the inflection point of India’s spirited run-chase, that hitherto had all the makings of a great upset. Batters who followed Harmanpreet to the crease struggled to time the old ball on the Newlands pitch and Australia, like they do so often, decisively ran away with the game from thereon.
Much like how it finished, it hadn’t started quite well for India either. Shafali Verma was pinned in front by Megan Schutt in the second over of the chase and it soon went from bad to worse when Gardner followed up with the wicket of Smriti Mandhana in the next over. It was, in the end, the fruit of bowling straight and tight to Mandhana, who struggled uncharacteristically during her short innings of 2 off 5. India’s meltdown didn’t stop there; Yastika Bhatia was run out in the fourth over, making it three wickets in three overs to totally turn the game in Australia’s favour. But that’s when a commanding association between Harmanpreet and Jemimah Rodrigues ensued.
Harmanpreet and Jemimah added stroke-filled 69 runs for the fourth wicket and totally stumped Australia by the pace of their partnership. Taking advantage of Australia bowling on both sides of the wicket, both the batters got into rhythm pretty early and hit some gorgeous shots all around the park. Harmanpreet hit 6 fours, which were matched by Jemimah, to go with a six as Australia looked short of ideas with the game slipping away. A lazy second run from Harmanpreet coupled with a bit of luck ensured that Australia didn’t have to sweat out there for too long.
It was Australia’s superlative fielding that made all the difference. They weren’t perfect, mind you; Healy dropped Harmanpreet on 36 in what could have been a game-changing moment but Ellyse Perry’s diving stop in the deep, when India needed 18 from 9, was emblematic of how good Australia can be even on a bad day. India, in contrast, dropped two crucial catches. Beth Mooney, who scored 54 off 37, was reprieved on 32 when Shafali failed to hold onto a simple catch at long-on, and that was an over after Richa Ghosh shelled Lanning on 1 behind the stumps. Lanning went on to make 49* off 34.
The drops and off-colour ground fielding meant that Australia got the wings to race through the innings. India conceded 103 in the last 10 overs, with Lanning and Gardner pressing the accelerator pedal. Although they later outran Australia with the bat in the PowerPlay, their inability to seal the game only worked to show Australia’s mature hands when it comes to games like these. Darcie Brown’s extraordinary bowling figures of 4-0-18-2 in a game where the next best economy-rate was 7.30 evidenced just that.
Brief Scores: Australia 172/4 (Beth Mooney 54, Meg Lanning 49*; Shikha Pandey 2-32) beat India (Harmanpreet Kaur 52, Jemimah Rodrigues 43; Darcie Brown 2-18) by five runs