Southern Stars shine at Brabourne

Riding on Beth Mooney (45) and skipper Meg Lanning (35 not out), Australian eves continue their domination in India starting the T20 tri-series with a sweet victory.

Australia’s Beth Mooney in action against India at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday.   -  AP

Smriti Mandhana fired the big shots to make a career-best score of 67 in 33 Twenty20 internationals and won many admirers at the Brabourne Stadium, but Australia, following a clinical team performance, became the most deserving winner of the opening match of the T20 Tri-series against India on Thursday.

Trying hard to stamp her authority on a match after a long lay-off from the game, the visitor’s blonde-haired captain Meg Lanning hit the winning shot, back-cutting medium pacer Rumeli Dhar to the third man fence for her fifth boundary shot.

As It Happened

The 25-year-old Singapore-born player from Victoria had made small contributions to her side in the three match ODI series in Baroda, but in the opening skirmish of the triangular against the home team here, she demonstrated her class in a calm and assured manner and looked the part while scoring 35 of the 44 runs that Australia required after the fall of the fourth wicket batswoman Elyse Villani.

Set a stiff target of 153 – India’s 152 was the highest in 13 India–Australia Twenty20 matches – Australia was rocked by a some incisive bowling from speedster Jhulan Goswami who took three good wickets. Jhulan, on her return to competitive cricket, bowled Alyssa Healy and Ashleigh Gardner, and lured opener Beth Mooney to play a false shot and offer a catch to Shikha Pandey at mid-on.

Giving Goswami a break after the opening two-over burst backfired for India.  Australia came back strongly through a 79-run aggressive partnership between Beth (45, 32 balls, 8 x 4s) and Elyse (39,33 balls, 4 x 4s). Leg spinner Poonam Yadav held a good catch to send back Elyse of her own bowling, but the Indian attack lacked the depth to cause an upset win.

India had its moments though in the first session when Smriti, with an upright stance and a still head to watch the ball, used her expert hands to go after the Australian seamers and spinners alike and raced to her half century in 30 balls with a pulled six.

India was 47 for no loss at the end of the six-over power-play, 72 for 1 at the half-way mark and at 99 for 1 in the middle of the 14th over. It seemed the stylish left-hander would continue to dominate till the end. But after a delightful knock embellished with 11 fours and two sixes, she gifted her wicket to off spinner Ashleigh Gardner.

Local girl Jemimah Rodrigues hit a short ball straight into the hands of long leg and skipper Harmanpreet followed soon after by mistiming a skier to mid on.

After the fall of two wickets at a score of 100, the Kolhapur-born Anuja Patil showed plenty of chutzpah while scoring a career-best 21-ball 35 with half a dozen fours and one six. A few shots would have the made the men folk green with envy, such was her clever execution of shots.

Brief Scores: India  152 for 5 in 20 overs  (Smriti Mandhana 67, Anuja Patil 35, Ashliegh Gardner two for 22, Ellyse Perry two for 31) lost   Australia 156 for 4 in 18.1 overs   (Beth Mooney 45, Elyse Villani 39, Meg Lanning 35 not out, Jhulan Goswami three for 30)

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