Australia marched into a seventh straight women’s T20 World Cup final after a dramatic five-run win over India in Cape Town.
The champions held their nerve in the death overs as India threatened a shock on Thursday (Friday AEDT). Beth Mooney’s 54 and Meg Lanning’s unbeaten 49 had helped set the underdogs a formidable 173 chase at Newlands. But Australia still needed fine bowling in the final two overs from spinners Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner, with India needing 20 to win, to eke out a win that takes them to Sunday’s final against either England or South Africa.
Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning and Ashleigh Gardner celebrate at Cape Town.Credit:Getty Images
Player of the match Gardner’s quickfire 31 to go with her two wickets had also given urgency to Australia’s innings as they ended on 4-172 after captain Lanning opted to bat first.
Darcie Brown’s 2-18 also proved pivotal as Australia moved to within one win of a third straight world T20 title and their sixth crown in seven editions.
“Today we probably had no right to win it, at one point there they were cruising,” Gardner said.
“That just shows the way we fight as a team. That’s what we do best – when our backs were against the wall, we scrap really hard and we find a way.”
Meg Lanning takes on the India attack.Credit:AP
Australia got off to a dream start with the ball as Megan Schutt and Gardner took out India’s openers Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana, respectively. Grace Harris and Alyssa Healy combined to run out Yastika Bhatia to leave India on 3-28.
But keeping up with the required rate, captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who had fever in the hours leading up to the semi-final, launched India’s recovery with an excellent 52, helping them gallop to 3-93 at halfway, 24 more than Australia at the same point.
But with 80 needed off 60, India’s threatening 69-run, 40-ball fourth-wicket stand between Harmanpreet and Jemimah Rodrigues ended upon the reintroduction of Brown.
An unsuccessful ramp off Brown’s surprise short ball over the keeper ended Rodrigues’ 24-ball 43.
Healy had a forgettable first half behind the stumps, dropping Harmanpreet on 36 and 37 in the space of four balls.
One ball after reaching her 50, the 33-year-old India captain’s fighting knock ended in the cruellest fashion as Mooney’s rocket throw from the deep at the wicketkeeper’s end caught Harmanpreet short of her ground, her bat having got stuck in the turf.
“It [Harmanpreet’s wicket] was a massive momentum-switcher for us. It’s these types of moments that you really need to jump on,” Gardner said. “That was probably one of the turning points in the game.”
With 39 off 30 needed for India to score an upset, Brown’s one-run final over swung the momentum back Australia’s way.
The 20-year-old took out the last of the opposition’s recognised batters, Richa Ghosh, for a 17-ball 14 when McGrath settled underneath a skier at long-on.
Sharma and Rana’s 22-run seventh-wicket stand kept India in the hunt, but Australia won critical moments to pull things back, like boundary-rider Ellyse Perry’s two diving saves of two runs each.
With the bat, Australia were scratchy for the most part and benefited from India’s sloppy fielding.
Lanning, dropped on one and nine, struck six boundaries in her 34-ball knock, her highest score of the tournament.
“That is one of the best wins I’ve been involved in, to fight back after not playing our best cricket in all three facets,” Lanning said.
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