A thriller sees Australia go past India to reach World Cup final

Australia became the first finalist of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup after defeating India by 5 runs in the thrilling semifinal of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2023.

Mrinal Asija
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Aus beat India Semifinal1

Australia move a step closer to another T20 World Cup title © Getty

Australia made it to yet another T20 World Cup Final by handing India an agonising defeat in the first semi-final at the Newlands Cricket Stadium in Cape Town on Thursday (February 23). Chasing 172, India batted with intent for most of the innings as early wickets failed to stop Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur from going for big hits. But despite coming so close, an unfortunate run-out of their captain ended India’s hopes of finally getting their hands on an ICC trophy.

Over the last couple of years, India-Australia has become one of the best rivalries in the world of women’s cricket. It was the match-up that was at the center of the historic final of the previous edition of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup, which Australia won in front of a home crowd of 86,174 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. But this time only one of these two teams would make it to the title clash. 

The pressure could not have been higher. However, India also had to deal with uncertainty and changes as captain Kaur and pace allrounder Pooja Vastrakar were down with an illness. While Kaur recovered in time for the game, Vastrakar had to be replaced by Sneh Rana in the squad and in the XI.

On a surface that she described as good for batting, Australian skipper Meg Lanning decided to put runs on the board in the big game and Alyssa Healy gave them the perfect start by hitting a boundary through a backward point on the first ball.

India bowled Renuka Singh Thakur and Deepti Sharma in tandem in the first four overs and the Australian openers found a boundary in each of them. Shikha Pandey tried to slow things down, but Beth Mooney hit the first six of the match off Sharma in the last over of the powerplay, of which Australia scored 43 without loss.

When Radha Yadav was brought into the attack in the eighth over, she pulled back her length and got Healy to come down the ground. Healy failed to connect and was stumped by Richa Ghosh. But in her next over, Yadav was taken for a couple of fours by Mooney as Australia completed half their innings on 69 for 1.

Mooney continued to be aggressive and that brought forward an all too familiar scene of Indian fielders coming under pressure in important games. The left-hander and Lanning were both given lives on the field

Mooney brought up her half-century with an innovative shot over the keeper’s head in the 13th over, but was caught off the bowling of Pandey two deliveries later. While her wicket put brakes on scoring for a couple of overs, Lanning and Ashleigh Gardner decided to attack Rana and hit three boundaries in her 16th over.

That opened the floodgates for Australia and runs started coming with ease. Gardner hit five boundaries before falling on 31. With a strike rate of 172.22, she had done her job. In came Grace Harris with the same purpose of adding quick runs, but she lasted just four balls, with one of them fetching her a boundary.

With one over to go, Australia had 154 runs on the scoreboard and needed a big final over. Lanning took Thakur for a six over deep square leg on the first ball. She followed it up with a four and after a couple of singles, ended the innings with a maximum, finishing on 49 not out.

Just like the entirety of the T20I series against Australia in December, India were once again chasing a 170+ total. 172 to be precise.

They started well, getting 10 of the first over. But Shafali Verma fell to Megan Schutt in the second over. Smriti Mandhana followed her back to the dressing room the very next over, trapped in front of her stumps by Gardner. But runs did not dry up for India as Jemimah Rodrigues started finding boundaries straight away.

A mix-up in the middle saw Yastika Bhatia walking back and it brought Kaur to the crease. What followed was a batting display full of positivity and intent. From being 33 for 3 after four overs, India finished the powerplay on 59 without losing any more wickets.

Kaur and Jemimah put behind the ghost of the dot balls, which the captain herself had flagged as a big concern earlier in the tournament. Whenever they could not find a boundary, they ensured the strike was being rotated. At the halfway mark in the innings, India were 93 for 3, ahead of the asking rate. The momentum was completely with India.

But that is when Darcie Brown was brought back into the attack and Rodrigues top-edged a short delivery, which Healy collected behind the stumps, giving Australia the much-needed breakthrough. After a few silent overs, Ghosh too started to attack and Kaur hit back-to-back boundaries to bring up her fifty. That is where India’s joy ended and the match turned. While trying to come back for a double, Kaur’s bat got stuck on the ground just short of the crease and she was run out by Healy.

With 40 runs needed off 32 balls, it was still very much doable for India. But Ghosh too fell in the next over and the required rate kept on creeping up. Lanning called up her finger spinners – Jess Jonassen and Gardner – for the last two overs and they ensured they gave nothing away to India.

In the end, India fell short by just five runs and Australia made it to their seventh consecutive T20 World Cup Final.

Brief Scores: Australia 172/4 (Beth Mooney 54, Meg Lanning 49; Shikha Pandey 2/32) beat India 167/8 (Harmanpreet Kaur 52, Jemimah Rodrigues 43) by 5 runs

Player of the Match: Ash Gardner 31 (18) & 2/37