Auckland, March 19 (IANS) Captain Meg Lanning led from the front as Australia entered the semifinals of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup with a six-wicket win over India at Eden Park on Saturday.
After Mithali Raj, Yastika Bhatia and Harmanpreet Kaur slammed fifties to help India post a competitive 277/7 in 50 overs, Australia chased down the total with three balls to spare and also the highest successful chase in the history of the tournament.
Lanning led the controlled chase with 97 off 107 balls, laced with 13 boundaries in an innings where she collected runs and pierced gaps through point region for fun.
But it was the opening partnership of 121 between Alyssa Healy (72) and Rachael Haynes (43) which set the tone for Australia’s unbeaten run in the showpiece event apart from young pacer Darcie Brown taking 3/30 in eight overs.
Australia began by picking nine boundaries in power-play, six of which were hammered by Alyssa Healy while three belonged to Rachael Haynes.
Healy took charge of the chase from the word go, hitting boundaries against pacers Jhulan Goswami and Meghna Singh effortlessly via drives, flick, late steer and pull. Haynes, on the other hand, swept and sliced Rajeshwari Gayakwad for boundaries before signing off from power-play with a pull off Pooja Vastrakar.
Healy then reached her 14th ODI fifty in 49 balls. The desperation was such from India to get a breakthrough that they emptied their quota of DRS reviews within first 17 overs of defending 277. Healy swept Gayakwad twice for boundaries but in an attempt to reverse-sweep off Sneh Rana, the right-handed batter picked out short third man, falling for 72 as the 121-run opening partnership came to an end.
In the next over, Haynes departed at 43, giving a faint outer edge to keeper Richa Ghosh on a hook off Vastrakar. But captain Meg Lanning kept the scoreboard ticking with her creamy drives and punches while placing the cuts elegantly through square region on the off-side.
Lanning looked assured in sweeping Rana and then punished a wayward Meghna with a slash past backward point followed by a pull over fine leg to reach her fifty in 56 balls. Ellyse Perry dug in her heels before getting her first boundary with a drive through mid-on off a full toss from Jhulan Goswami. The duo were sharing a stand of 102 off 120 balls when rain interrupted play, with Australia needing 53 runs in 54 balls.
Post resumption, Perry fell to Vastrakar as she smashed a full toss straight to cover. But Lanning continued to place her shots well by swivelling Vastrakar over backward square leg and then drove her square through backward point. Lanning again brought out her favourite square drive against Goswami to enter the 90s.
But Lanning fell three short of her 15th ODI century, slicing straight to point off Meghna. With eight needed off the final over, Mooney elegantly lofted Goswami over mid-wicket for four and then took two runs via drive through deep cover, followed by a four down the ground to maintain their clean slate in the tournament.
Earlier, skipper Mithali Raj and number three Yastika Bhatia’s 130-run stand built the platform before an unbeaten 57 off 47 balls from Harmanpreet and 28-ball 34 from Vastrakar took India to 277/7 as 77 runs came off last 10 overs. Australia weren’t the best on the field nor with the ball as they conceded 29 extras, including 24 wides.
India didn’t have a great start in power-play, losing Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma to Brown in the first six overs. While Mandhana drove away from the body and nicked to slip, Verma’s slash was snapped by Beth Mooney diving full length for a one-handed stunner at gully.
Mithali and Yastika joined forces to stabilize India’s innings, helped by Australia leaking runs. A total of 16 runs from the 12th over of Ellyse Perry got Mithali and Yastika to settle down without taking any further risk.
Mithali, under pressure due to a lean run in the tournament, was a busy customer at the crease, getting her singles and made use of pace to get boundaries through square region in off-side. She looked delightful with the cover drive and used her feet well to slam a six down the ground.
Yastika, more aggressive of the two, struck delightful boundaries and ensured the scoreboard was ticking.
The duo reached their respective fifties in 77 balls to set the platform for a big total. But Yastika fell in the 32nd over, picking out deep backward point off Brown. Six overs later, Mithali didn’t get the required elevation on slog-sweep and holed out to deep mid-wicket off leg-spinner Alana King.
With Richa Ghosh stumped off Alana King and Sneh Rana bowled by Jess Jonassen, India were in trouble at 213/6 with almost eight overs left. But Harmanpreet and Pooja produced the big hits to put up a crucial stand of 64 off just 47 balls.
Harmanpreet had luck on her side as Mooney dropped her catch at 34. Harmanpreet swept and bisected her way to reach fifty while Pooja shined with a cameo of 34 to give India a good total to defend, which wasn’t enough to stop Lanning and Co’s winning juggernaut.
Brief Scores: India 277/7 in 50 overs (Mithali Raj 68, Yastika Bhatia 59; Darcie Brown 3/30, Alana King 2/52) lost to Australia 280/4 in 49.3 overs (Meg Lanning 97, Alyssa Healy 72; Pooja Vastrakar 2/43, Sneh Rana 1/56) by six wickets.