India falter in knock-outs yet again, Australia reach seventh straight T20 World Cup final

PTI, Feb 24, 2023, 8:10 AM IST

Cape Town: India wilted under the pressure of a knock-out game yet again after skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s freak run out as defending champions Australia entered their seventh successive Women’s T20 World Cup final with a five-run win here on Thursday.

India’s shoddy fielding and catching allowed Australia to post a challenging 172 for four after Meg Lanning opted to bat in the semifinal.

At 28 for three, India were down and out but Harmanpreet (52 off 34) and Jemimah Rodrigues (43 off 24) produced a counter-attacking 69-run stand off just 41 balls to bring the team back in the game.

India needed a very gettable 39 off last 30 balls with five wickets in hand but as it has been the case in the past, the team came up short to finish at 167 for eight.

India had lost to five-time champions Australia in the previous World Cup final and more recently in the CWG final last year.

Another loss in a knock out game extended India’s long wait for a world title.

Despite losing the destructive Shafali Verma and star batter Smriti Mandhana cheaply, Jemimah and India skipper ensured boundaries.

Harmanpreet, who was a doubtful starter for the do-or-die game due to high fever, got going with a crisp six over long on off Jess Jonassen.

Rodrigues looked in sublime touch from the get go, dispatching Ashleigh Gardner for consecutive fours off her first two balls. Her inside out lofted drives over extra cover off the spinners was the highlight of her innings.

At 93 for three in 10 overs, India were very much on course for a famous win. Jemimah and Harmanpreet’s omnious stand ended when the former tried to a guide a slow bouncer Darcie Brown but ended up edging it to the wicketkeeper.

Harmanpreet, who is known to bring out her best against the Aussies, looked at her vintage best with her sizzling strokeplay. Like Jemimah, she too made good use of her feet to get the fours.

She got to her fifty with back-to-back fours off Wareham in the 15th over before a freak run out brought another twist in the game.

It was a comfortable double but on way to completing the second run, Harmanpreet’s bat got stuck in the ground and Alyssa Healy was quick to take the bails off with the Indian out of the crease.

It was turning point of the game.

India’s bowling effort also left a lot be desired as Beth Mooney extended her envious record against India with a classy 54 off 37 balls.

One of the best power-hitters in the game, Ashleigh Gardner, hurt India with 31 off 18 balls while skipper Meg Lanning made 49 not out off 34 balls.

Australia opted to bat at a sunny Newlands and Harmanpreet did not seem to mind Lanning’s call.

There was no swing on offer, making life a lot difficult for star pacer Renuka Thakur, whose first ball of the game was a half volley to Alyssa Healy (25 off 26) and she duly put it away.

Healy is usually the aggressor in her opening partnerships with Mooney but it wasn’t the case on this occasion.

It was Mooney who got the boundaries more regularly in their 52-run stand as she manoeuvred the field beautifully with her nimble footwork against the spinners. Shafali dropped a regulation catch off Mooney at long on when she was on 32.

Deepti, India’s most consistent spinner in the tournament, bowled too short in her opening spell. Her second over went for 12 runs as Mooney stepped out for a six over wide long off.

Besides the inconsistent line and length, poor fielding and catching cost India a lot of runs.

Lanning, who was dropped early in her innings, made India pay with an unbeaten 49 off 34 balls. She collected two sixes and a four in the 20th over bowled by Renuka, who went wicketless in her four overs and conceded 41 runs.

Sneh Rana, playing in place of Pooja Vastrakar, was unfortunate not pick any wicket as she troubled the batters with her flight. She could have had Lanning caught behind in her first over but wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh dropped the chance. Richa also fluffed a stumping chance of Lanning.

The last five overs yielded 59 runs for Australia.

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