Elyse Villani looked brutal as she attacked the Indian bowlers. After India picked up three early wickets, she took the charge of rebuilding the Australian innings. They were chasing 282 in just 42 overs and needed a big innings. But, once she hit Shikha Pandey straight to mid-on on the first ball of the 24th innings, India sensed they have the match.
But, they were made to wait more. Alex Blackwell played a stunning knock of 90 runs and played some fearless cricket which threatened to pull-off a miraculous chase. Australia, who lost their ninth wicket for 169, were finally bowled out for 245.
Deepti Sharma bowled Blackwell and made sure Blackwell did not overshadow a masterclass from Harmanpreet Kaur who made unbeaten 171 off just 115 balls to help India post 281 for 4 from 42 overs. She did not take the field in the second innings but her team did well to take India to their second ever Women’s World Cup final and first time since 2005.
Despite Blackwell’s stunning innings of 90 off 56 down the order and her 76-run stand for the last wicket with Beams, Australia could not pull of the chase and will not able to defend their title against England at Lord’s on Sunday.
The players waited in the dressing room before the start and rain to stop so they could get some play. Two hours after the scheduled time, the toss took place. The start of the match was delayed by over two hours due to rain and when it began, India decided to bat after Mithali Raj won the toss in the semi-final at Derby, a ground on which India are yet to lose a match in this tournament.
And, Harmanpreet made the first innings all about herself. From her monstrous sixes to her elegant fours to the angry look she had when Deepti Sharma almost ran herself out, it was all about Kaur.
Harmanpreet threw her helmet and gloves and screamed in anger as Deepti failed to acknowledge a call for second run. Both were almost run-out. Dives at either end save them and then Harmanpreet, who completed her century with it, did not even celebrate but threw some words at Deepti.
Apart from that ugly exchange, her innings was class. At one stage, she was scoring one run for every four balls with all singles. No boundaries from her and Raj’s bat was costing India.
Raj was looking good though for her half-century until she was dismissed for 36. Then Kaur took over and played some fearless cricket. She scored century off just 90 balls, hitting 12 fours and two sixes. Those were some of the best shots played and it became an innings of class. She was not even done yet. She moved to 150 in just 17 more balls.
Her scoring pattern went like first fifty off 60 balls, second fifty off 30 balls and the third one off just 17. She was unbeaten at 171 off 115 balls and her body did not have no energy.
But, India had a different start altogether. It did not look different from other matches though. As India have done all through the tournament, they began slowly. Smirti Mandhana and Punam Raut had the responsibility to get India some good start but the former was dismissed in the second over. By the time the 10th over finished, India were two down for 35.