There couldn’t have been a more fitting finale to the women’s T20 cricket event of the Commonwealth Games.
For the Indian fans at Edgbaston it may have brought back unpleasant memories of the 2017 women’s World Cup final between India and England, when the ‘women in blue’ went down to the host by nine runs at Lord’s.
On Sunday, the margin of defeat was similar as skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s 65 (43b, 7x4, 2x6) went in vain against Australia. India women had to settle for the silver medal in their maiden CWG campaign in Birmingham. New Zealand beat England by eight wickets to win the bronze medal.
The toss, earlier delayed over discussions surrounding Australia all-rounder Tahlia McGrath’s inclusion in the playing eleven after she had tested positive for COVID-19, saw Meg Lanning opt to bat.
Continuing her rich vein of form, India pacer Renuka Singh Thakur dismissed Alyssa Healy in her second over with the new ball. After an LBW appeal was turned down, Harmanpreet Kaur reluctantly decided to go upstairs but didn’t regret the call as the review showed the ball would have gone on to hit middle stump.
It was all about Australia in the next eight overs as Lanning (36, 26b, 5x4, 6x1) joined Beth Mooney (61, 41b, 8x4) for a 74-run stand off 47 balls. Mooney was initially the aggressor but Lanning didn’t want to be left behind. The latter eventually fell at the non-striker’s end - caught outside her crease by a quick reactionary throw from bowler Radha Yadav at the stumps. Credit must also be given to the wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia, who had the full view of the situation and asked Radha to go for the throw.
McGrath could only score two runs before falling to a stunning catch by Radha. All-rounder Ashleigh Gardner, who had scored a fifty in the group stage game against India, scored back-to-back fours off the second and third balls she faced. She made 25 off 15 balls, before getting stumped while stepping out to go after a flighted delivery from Sneh Rana. In the same over, Mooney brought up her fifty with a four.
Renuka dismissed Grace Harris with a slower ball in the 17 th over. Australia lost a wicket in each of the remaining three overs but still managed a challenging 161 for eight.
In reply, India opener Shafali Verma got off the blocks early with two fours in the first over of Megan Schutt. It was an outing to forget for Smriti Mandhana, who shuffled across a tad too much towards the off-stump and was bowled around the legs.
What perhaps was the moment of the match, McGrath, after taking Shafali’s catch, asked her teammates, who had seemingly forgotten all about her COVID-19 diagnosis, to stay away from her and celebrate.
Three fours off Darcie Brown’s over saw India move to 42 for two at the end of the PowerPlay. At the same stage, Australia had scored a run more and lost a wicket less.
Harmanpreet, who overtook Virat Kohli to become the leading run-scorer for India as captain in T20Is, kept the scoreboard ticking with Jemimah Rodrigues (33, 33b, 3x4). Harmanpreet’s cross-batted smash into the stands near the midwicket area stood out.
However, Jemimah’s dismissal, followed by the wickets of Pooja Vastrakar and Harmanpreet off Gardner’s consecutive deliveries, triggered a collapse.
Just when Rana seemed to be getting into the zone, she was run out owing to a horrible mix-up. Radha and Deepti were dismissed in the next over, leaving 11 runs to get in the last over. Yastika Bhatia, in as concussion replacement for Taniya, who was hit on the helmet in the first innings, and Meghna Singh, were India’s last hope but it took Jess Jonassen only three balls to settle the contest in Australia’s favour.
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