AUSTRALIA: The only bright spot was India’s improved batting performance. They failed to defend an imposing total, with favourites Australia extending their unbeaten run and booking a semi-final spot in the Women’s World Cup on Saturday. Pooja Vastrakar led the bowling attack, picking up two wickets. Still, it was all but over for India, who could never put Australia under pressure until the final overs. India managed to force the game into the last over, but Australia held on for a six-wicket victory at Eden Park in Auckland.
Australia needed 278 runs to win and relied on Meg Lanning, who fell three runs short of her 15th century in Women’s One-day Internationals. The skipper finished with 97 off 107 deliveries before succumbing to Meghna Singh in the penultimate over. With eight needed to win off the final over, Beth Mooney held her nerve to hit two fours against Jhulan Goswami, ensuring Australia won with three balls to spare. Alyssa Healy (72) and Rachael Haynes (43) also helped Australia get off fast in their chase, adding 121 for the first wicket. With their quick batting, the pair scored 67 runs in the first ten overs, effectively taking the game away from India.
Australia has looked like an unstoppable force in the tournament, winning five games. With the last-over victory over the Indians, they also have qualified for the semi-finals. It was also the most successful run-chase in Women’s World Cup history, with Healy setting the tone and Lanning-Perry completing the task for Australia. “I think it was good to contribute personally; it was disappointing to miss out on scores in the last couple of matches, but I worked hard at the nets,” said Lanning, also named Player of the Match.
After being invited to bat, India scored a competitive 277 for seven. Mithali Raj’s team won on the strength of her captain’s fifty, with Yastika Bhatia (59) and Harmanpreet Kaur (57 not out) also contributing with the willow. In a reshuffled batting order, India reinstated Shafali Verma in the starting eleven, replacing Deepti Sharma, who had batted at four in the previous two games. After cheaply losing openers Smriti Mandhana and Shafali, Raj and Yastika steadied the innings with a 130-run third-wicket stand. Yastika, who batted at three with Shafali and Smriti at the top, scored the tournament’s first half-century.
Mithali Raj also broke her Jinx after a dry spell in the first four games. Mithali Raj scored her first half-century of the competition; the skipper hit a straight six off left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen. Mithali and Yastika started rotating the strike after getting into a rhythm, but both got out quickly. India had fallen to 213 for six from 158 for two before Harmanpreet scored an unbeaten 57 off 47 balls to take the team well past 250. Pooja Vastrakar, who again shone with the bat to add 34 off 28 balls, aided her.
Pooja and Harmanpreet scored 64 runs off 47 balls in India’s seventh-wicket stand, with the team scoring 52 runs in the final five overs. “When you lose, you always feel like 10-15 runs behind. I believe that the way Australia began the innings, they were always ahead of the asking rate. The fielders were unable to support the bowlers. We wanted to improve our batting, and we did so. In the remaining games, we must perform well in all areas. India must win the next two matches,” Mithali commented on the defeat.
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