India women 281 for 4 (Kaur 171*, Raj 36) beat Australia women (Blackwell 90, Villani 75, Deepti 3-59) by 36 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A heavy downpour reduced the semi-final to a 42-over contest, but such was Harmanpreet Kaur’s relentless assault that she had enough time to reel off 171 not out off 115 balls – the third-highest score in the World Cup and fifth-highest overall. She biffed 20 fours and seven sixes – strained shoulder and all – which KO’d defending champions Australia, and vaulted India into the final for the first time since 2005.
Arriving at the crease with her team wobbling at 35 for 2 in 9.2 overs, Kaur sensibly saw off the new ball under overcast conditions before unleashing her wrath. She reached her first fifty off 64 balls, her second came off another 26, and her third off a barely believable 17. The acceleration could not have been starker.
It wasn’t only Australia who felt the wrath of Kaur. After working legspinner Kristen Beams to deep midwicket at the end of the 35th over, Kaur immediately called for two, but Deepti Sharma stopped in the middle, which resulted in a mix-up. Both batsmen ultimately dived desperately, beat a relay throw, and completed the double, which gave Kaur her third ODI hundred. An infuriated Kaur did not celebrate, however. Instead, she flung her helmet onto the turf and fired verbal volleys at her partner even as the third umpire was called to check on the run-out chance.
After the green light came on, Kaur’s first order of business was making up with poor Deepti. The second was firing boundaries in the arc between deep square leg and long-on. India sailed to 281 for 4, but that total appeared smaller when Elyse Villani, making excellent use of her crease, found the boundary with Kaur-esque regularity in the chase. Villani could not do it long enough and her dismissal for a career-best 75 set in motion a collapse: Australia lost 6 for 43. Alex Blackwell’s late blitz – 90 off 56 balls – threatened a jailbreak, but Deepti knocked over her leg stump to lock India for a date with England at Lord’s.
Although the day ended with Australia – finalists in six out of the previous eight World Cups – realising they won’t be playing for the championship, it had begun entirely differently. After a rain delay of three hours and 45 minutes, Megan Schutt struck in the first over to hand Smriti Mandhana her sixth successive sub-15 score in the tournament. Soon, Punam Raut, who struck a century in India’s group match against Australia, attempted a low-percentage hoick off Ashleigh Gardner, the offspinner, and holed out to deep midwicket. Mithali Raj and Kaur then played percentage cricket and added 66 for the third wicket.
Raj was dropped at midwicket on 34 but she misjudged the next ball from Beams – a flat slider – and was bowled for 36. Australia threw everything at Kaur – seam, left-arm spin, offspin, legspin and even part-time dibbly-dobblers – but she did not budge. The closest they came to dismissing her was when Schutt speared one down the leg side and had Kaur overbalancing, but Alyssa Healy, the wicketkeeper, did not collect the ball cleanly and missed a difficult stumping chance. Kaur had been 35 at that point.
She raised her half-century when she swatted Beams to the midwicket boundary, and was particularly severe on Jess Jonassen’s left-arm spin, taking her for 45 off only 20 balls. But Kaur hit the peak of her ball-striking prowess when she smashed Gardner for four successive boundaries, including three over the leg side, in the 37th over, which was also the first of the batting Powerplay. The carnage continued during the 24-ball window as India pillaged 57, of which Kaur scored 47.
There was no such joy for Australia’s much-vaunted top four. Shikha Pandey stormed through Beth Mooney’s gate with a full delivery that pitched on leg stump and seamed so very late to hit off. Ian Bishop, on TV commentary, called it the ball of the tournament. But, three overs later, Jhulan Goswami produced a similarly unplayable delivery, which too changed direction at the last minute, to leave Meg Lanning staring at her off stump in shambles. The No. 1-ranked batsman in women’s cricket was out for a duck, and her side would later slip to a precarious 21 for 3 by the eighth over.
Villani swept and punched her way to a 41-ball half-century, Blackwell raised hers off only 36 deliveries, and Ellyse Perry came within 12 runs of her sixth successive fifty, as Australia came close, but not close enough.
While India will dream of securing their maiden World Cup title, Australia will look to shake this off like a bad dream.