Beth Mooney carried her bat while being ably supported first by Tahlia McGrath, who made 74, having picked three wickets for 45 runs earlier, and then by Nicola Carey, who was batting for only the tenth time in the 19 ODIs she has played and after returning to the XI, having missed the first match due to an injury.
“We were just calm and clear in what we wanted to do,” McGrath said on Saturday (September 25). “We had the belief that no matter who is at the wicket, we can do the job. If we could keep it to 90 in the last ten, we were confident of getting home.”
Eventually, Australia were left needing 87 off the last ten, 41 off the last four and 13 off the last over. With three needed off the last ball, a no-ball for full-toss above waist on the ‘original’ last ball meant the hosts got another go at keeping their streak alive. Carey then pushed one through mid-on for a brace. And they managed to keep their winning streak alive in ODIs.
Belief. That the multi-faceted players in the Australian line-up would bail them out of trouble, that they rarely get into. Belief, that Mooney, despite being in the middle from ball one, would have it in her to help her side cross the line. Belief, that despite missing Rachael Haynes, Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen, three of those that form the vital cog for the hosts, they would keep themselves on the right side of the result. And nerves, to be calm and get the job done despite the chaos that persisted in the middle.
Jhulan Goswami believed that she could help India defend 12. She almost did a terrific job of that if not for the two no-balls she delivered – she had earlier bowled a beamer to Carey, the wet ball slipping out of her hand. But perhaps India didn’t believe enough in their spinners, who appear to be the weaker link and yet had played a role in keeping them in the game in the last ten overs. Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav didn’t return with impressive figures but did well to leave 13 in the bank for the final over. Will there be a re-look to India's spin attack?
The tourists showed nerves when they couldn’t grab crucial chances. Yadav bowling a half-tracker in her eventual final over, Pooja Vastrakar spraying it all around and some misfields were signs of that. Did Vastrakar bowl an over or two too many? Did India miss a trick by not giving more overs to Sharma and Yadav? Or perhaps by not bowling out Meghna Singh? Is there a room for the experienced Shikha Pandey in the XI?
These are some of the questions Mithali Raj will have to look at ahead of the final ODI on Sunday. India have conceded the series but looking at the bigger picture would mean that there is a long way to go in the multi-format series. Their batting also finally came good with Smriti Mandhana scoring a crucial 86, Shafali Verma giving her support for 74 runs and Richa Ghosh and co providing the lower-order runs. The close end of the match would have given India the belief that Australia perhaps are beatable.
One aspect that could worry the Aussies a bit is the number of extras. They bowled 22 extras in the first game and 31 in the second. 19 and 17 respectively of those were wide balls. Although McGrath did say that the team haven't talked about it as yet, expect a quiet word to go around about it, given the champion side that Australia are.
Will Australia’s 26-match streak end on September 26? Or will they have yet another whitewash to their name? The Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay, that witnessed the thriller on Friday, will reveal it all.
Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Maitlan Brown, Stella Campbell, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Georgia Redmayne, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
India: Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur (vc), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Yastika Bhatia, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shikha Pandey, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Richa Ghosh (wk), Ekta Bisht