India were defending less than a run-a-ball total against Australia. Shikha Pandey was running in to bowl for India for the first time since the England tour. The tourists needed her to deliver with the new ball for India to have any chance to keep the hosts in check. The first ball was short-on-length, and Alyssa Healy launched onto it like it was her second sense, dispatching the ball through the mid-wicket boundary. Pandey was under pressure. This time, she bowled wider and a bit fuller, and the ball swung a mile back into Healy, who was outdone and took the bails on its way to Richa Ghosh.
What followed was a magnificent display of swing bowling. Renuka Singh Thakur and Pandey troubled both Meg Lanning and Beth Mooney from either end. In the three overs since Healy's dismissal, Australia scored only five runs. Trying to counter the inswingers from Indian seamers, Lanning started batting on her off-stump, taking LBW out of the equation.
Whenever there was width on offer, the Australian duo pounced on it. Lanning tried to go after Pooja Vastrakar, and a couple of mistimed lofts got the hosts crucial boundaries. When it seemed like Lanning had got hold of the chase, Rajeshwari Gayakwad got the Australian skipper caught behind with Ghosh making sure that stumping was also in play. Kaur followed it up with the wicket of Ashleigh Gardner, and Deepti Sharma struck on her first ball to get rid of Ellyse Perry. Australia were down to 46 for four, needing 73 runs from 65 balls.
The star duo from the second ODI - Mooney and McGrath - joined hands to build a partnership. They picked up the odd boundary while keeping the run rate at control with singles and doubles. They were helped with a couple of close catching chances and a drop by Ghosh behind the stumps. Mooney and McGrath added 25 runs together before Gayakwad came back to dismiss Mooney for 34 runs off 36 balls. Meanwhile, McGrath looked solid at the other end. She collected a boundary from the outside edge off Gayakawad and crunched Kaur through covers for another.
Nicola Carey, however, got out to a stumbled stumping by Ghosh as Gayakwad took her third. Georgia Wareham hit Pandey for a couple of boundaries in the 17th over, bring down the equation to 14 runs from 12 balls. McGrath smashed Thakur for two successive fours - one down the ground, and the other through extra-cover. From there, an Australian win was inevitable. McGrath finished with 42 runs from 33 balls as the hosts win by four wickets with five balls to spare.
Earlier, after being asked to bat, the Indian openers - Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma - tried to replicate their performance from the first T20I. However, Tayla Vlaeminck, having observed the batters in their previous encounter, had adjusted her lines better. Though there was a no-ball and a couple of wides, her pace and late swing made it hard for the openers to get early boundaries. With her shots going straight to the fielders, Mandhana was getting worked up searching for her first boundary. Trying to slog a length delivery from Vlaeminck that swung back in, the southpaw was caught at square-leg by Carey for one run off five balls.
Lanning brought in Sophie Molineux from the other end, who kept Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues quiet in the second over. Vlaeminck picked up her second in the next over as Verma backed away, trying to slap a good length down the ground, but was caught by Hannah Darlington at mid-on. Indian skipper Kaur and Rodrigues took a couple of overs to settle in. The former flicked Vlaeminck for back-to-back boundaries over square-leg. However, the partnership did not last long as Rodrigues miscued Molineux to Darlington for a 13-ball seven. India were down to 25 for three in the first six overs.
Joined by Bhatia, Kaur kept the innings going for India. When Perry came on for her second over, Kaur launched a counterattack, smashing three boundaries off the experienced allrounder. Wareham took the outside edge of Bhatia, only for it to run for the boundary behind the wicket-keeper. However, she had the last laugh as Kaur was stumped while trying to loft her down the ground. Thereon, the downhill began for India.
From 50 for three, they went down to 75 for seven, losing four wickets in quick succession. Bhatia got caught in a mix-up and was run out; Carey deceived Ghosh with a slower delivery. Sharma and Vastrakar ended up in the same end while running for a second, and the former was declared run out at the other end. They lost a couple of more wickets, slumping further down to 81 for nine from 17 overs.
With three overs and only one wicket left, Vastrakar went after the Carey, hitting a massive six over long-on. She followed it up with another boundary over covers. Rattled Carey, gave another seven runs in the rest of the over. Vastrakar smashed another 16 runs in the final over off Darlington, taking India to 118 for nine in 20 overs. She finished with an unbeaten 37 runs from 26 balls. Australian spin trio bowled ten overs, taking four wickets for 33 runs among them.
Brief Scores: India 118/9 in 20 overs (Pooja Vastrakar 37*, Harmanpreet Kaur 28; Sophie Molineux 2/11) lost to Australia 119/6 in 19.1 overs (Tahlia McGrath 42, Beth Mooney 34, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 3/21) by four wickets POTM: Tahlia McGrath