Australia is one win away from a third consecutive women’s T20 World Cup title but only after they survived an almighty scare from an Indian team that would have won had Harmanpreet Kaur not been run out in brutal circumstances.
India looked in all sorts when they lost three wickets in the first four overs chasing Australia’s imposing total of 4/172, but a 69-run partnership between Kaur (52 off 34) and Jemimah Rodrigues (43 off 24) swung momentum their way.
The pair had them well above the run rate when Rodrigues was caught behind off Darcie Brown’s bowling just after the drinks break, and luck looked to be going their way when Alyssa Healy couldn’t repeat the rose to drop Kaur on 36 with India still needing 64 for victory.
Kaur made the most of her life to bring up a half-century having spent time in hospital dealing with illness leading up to the match.
But her heroics ended in the 15th over when a regulation two ended in tragedy when her bat plugged in the turf just short of her crease, allowing Healy to whip off the bails to have Kaur run out in an international T20 for the first time in five years.
It was the beginning of the end for India whose hopes were dashed when Richa Ghosh – their last recognised batter – was caught on the boundary on Brown’s final ball.
They fell five runs short of what would have been the greatest chase in World Cup history, with Ellyse Perry producing some moments of magic in the field to get Australia over the line as Ash Gardner held her nerve with the ball in the final over.
“Bowling the last over, I reckon my average heart rate was probably 190,” Gardner said after collecting the player of the match award thanks to 31 runs and two wickets.
“I think that shows the way that we fight at the end as a team. That’s what we spoke about in the huddle right at the end was that we probably weren’t in a winning position, but that’s what this team does best.
“When our backs are up against the ball, we find a way and we scrap really hard.
“The fight that we showed shows the character of this team.”
While the men’s Test side is living out a nightmare on the subcontinent, the women are on track for more glory after seeing off the side they defeated three years ago on a historic night at the MCG.
Healy signalled her intent with a boundary from the first ball of the match in her return from a quad injury as Australia’s top four all reached 25 to help them post a commanding total.
Mooney continued her incredible summer, with the Belinda Clark Award winner smashing her second half-century in three matches after a slow start to the tournament.
Her 54 took the sting out of the Indian attack before skipper Meg Lanning came in and blasted an unbeaten 49 off 34 including two sixes in the final over as Australia piled on 103 runs from the final 10 overs.
“I was getting a little nervous,” Lanning said after the game.
“We got a little lucky with Kaur’s wicket, but we stayed in the game.”
OH MY GHOSH
The old adage that catches win matches came back to haunt India, with Ghosh coming up with some costly errors with the gloves.
The talented youngster spilled a tough chance when Lanning was on one as the skipper enjoyed a bit of luck in a chaotic few balls as she was caught moments later off a free hit.
She survived the drama but should have been stumped a couple of overs later when she was on nine, only for Ghosh to juggle the ball which gave Lanning enough time to get back in her crease.
Mooney was also given a life on 32 when Shafali Verma spilled a sitter on the boundary which proved telling in the end.
“We gave some easy catches away,” Kaur said.
“We have to take those chances.”
Alana King has been a mainstay of the Aussie team since she made her international T20 debut just over a year ago, but she’s now fighting for a spot in the decider after missing out on selection in Friday’s semi-final.
The gifted leg-spinner was economical but went wicketless in the four pool games, prompting selectors to recall the more experienced Jess Jonassen.
The move looked to have backfired when she was whacked for 18 from her first two overs, but the veteran stood tall when it mattered most, conceding just four runs and taking a wicket in the penultimate over to leave India needing 16 off six deliveries.
Ash Gardner held her nerve with the ball, and the result means Australia is through to a seventh-straight T20 World Cup final where they’ll face either England or tournament hosts South Africa.