Five-time champion Australia prevailed in an epic semi-final, beating India by just five runs in Cape Town on Thursday (February 23) to book its place in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 final.
The holder was at its destructive best having chosen to bat, Beth Mooney leading the way 54, while Meg Lanning ended on 49 not out as Australia crunched 172 runs in their 20 overs.
Harmanpreet Kaur led from the front as India took Australia close, making 52, but a catalogue of errors ultimately made the side’s chase a mountain too high to climb.
Also read: Women’s T20 World Cup: All you need to know
Australia’s attacking intent was clear from ball one as Alyssa Healy sent a half-volley from Renuka Singh Thakur to the backward point boundary.
It took until Shikha Pandey was brought on in the fifth over for India to bowl an over without a boundary, the veteran seamer providing some calm.
Radha Yadav then made the breakthrough as Healy was stumped for 25 as she misjudged the flight of the ball to bring an end to the first-wicket partnership which had reached 52 runs.
Two drops in two overs brought India back down to earth as Lanning survived on one in the eighth over as Richa Ghosh shelled a tricky chance behind the stumps.
Shafali Verma had the most egregious miss as a regulation catch on the long-on boundary went through her hands and for four with Mooney on 32 from 25.
The left-hander brought up her half-century from just 34 balls as she took Pandey for back-to-back boundaries, the first to be conceded off her bowling.
Pandey got her revenge three balls later as Mooney went for 54 from 37 with seven fours and a six, but what followed was total Australian demolition as Lanning and Ash Gardner crashed 38 runs between the 15th and 17th over, with Jemimah Rodrigues also throwing to the wrong end with Gardner surely gone for 29.
Gardner eventually departed an over later for 31 before Grace Harris was bowled for seven from four balls for Pandey’s second wicket as she recorded figures of two for 32.
With nine balls left, there was still time for a late flurry from Lanning who scored a crucial six off the final ball to end on 49 not out as Australia set India 173 to win.
India started positively in its chase, taking Gardner for 10 runs off the first over before Megan Schutt halted Verma’s progress, dismissing her leg before wicket.
Another review an over later gave the dangerous Smriti Mandhana out leg before wicket having made just two before Yastika Bhatia was run out having set off on a run that was never there to leave India at 28 for three.
The rebuild was emphatic, however, as Kaur showed no signs of the illness that had threatened her participation, combining with Rodrigues to put on 69 runs for the fourth wicket.
Summing up India’s day, the sublime was followed by the maddening as Rodrigues played a beautiful shot to the boundary before she was caught behind attempting a ramp at a wide ball from Darcie Brown.
The right-hander left the field furious with herself but having given India hope with her 43 from 24.
Kaur looked to continue in the same manner, riding her luck as she dropped by Healy on 36 before bringing up her half-century with a sweep.
Her innings ended in desperate fashion as she was run out, her bat stuck in the ground inches from safety, to leave India needing 40 runs from 32 balls.
Finest of margins.#T20WorldCup pic.twitter.com/oU6oTIGx2j
— ICC (@ICC) February 23, 2023
Then, just as Ghosh got into her stride she was caught by the steady hands of Tahlia McGrath, and while Deepti Sharma and Sneh Rana put India within touching distance, Rana’s departure to leave 16 off the final over was not close enough.
Australia, which is unbeaten so far in the competition, will now defend its title at Newlands on Sunday (February 26) against either its old foe England or host South Africa.
Australia 172/4 in 20 overs (Beth Mooney 54, Meg Lanning 49 not out; Shikha Pandey 2/32, Deepti Sharma 1/30)
India 167/8 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 52, Jemimah Rodrigues 43; Darcie Brown 2/18, Ashleigh Gardner 2/37)
Player of the Match: Ashleigh Gardner (Australia)