9:32 PM IST
It’s Australia v India. MCG. Sunday. The final the organisers wanted most desperately as they hope to #FillTheMCG. They have got their wish, as have the players and followers of the two teams. As they get ready to do battle, here’s a lookback at how they got there.
Australia were completely bewitched by Poonam Yadav’s legspin, but were left with one positive from their defeat. Their star opener Alyssa Healy, who had been going through a lean patch, hit a half-century in that match, and she has managed to carry her good form since then. The four-time champions will be looking to exact revenge on their in-form opponents, in front of what is expected to be a record crowd for a women’s game at the MCG on Sunday.
It seemed like Australia’s confidence had taken a major hit after the loss against India, as the No. 1-ranked side scrambled to a five-wicket win against Sri Lanka in their second group fixture after an almighty scare. Chamari Atapattu dazzled with a 38-ball 50 and made the hosts toil hard, and a number of handy contributions in the middle order took Sri Lanka to 122 for 6. The prolific fast-bowling duo of Udeshika Prabodhani and Shashikala Siriwardene bowled a probing spell with the new ball, which left Australia at 10 for 3 within the first four overs of the chase. Thanks to a 95-run stand between Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning, though, Australia won the day with just three balls remaining.
Follow India’s path to the ICC Women’s T20 WC final
Australia were back to being the Australia we know as they made easy work of a sloppy Bangladesh line-up at Manuka Oval. On the back of a record 151-run opening stand – Australia’s highest first-wicket partnership in T20Is – between Healy and Beth Mooney, the hosts dominated big time. Chasing 189, Bangladesh lost their plot in the middle, and left Fargana Hoque to struggle all by herself, as they crumbled from 76 for 3 to 102 for 9. Megan Schutt was the destructor-in-chief as she bagged 3 for 21 with support from Jess Jonassen, who finished with 4 for 17.
In the winner-takes-it-all contest, Australia showcased their big-match temperament as they edged New Zealand in a close contest at Junction Oval. The hosts put together a decent target and then defended it to bring New Zealand’s campaign to an early end. Mooney made yet another half-century, which helped put up a target of 155, following which a pivotal spell by wristspinner Georgia Wareham strangled New Zealand in the chase. She plucked out the dangerous Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates, and then sent back Maddy Green to stifle the run-flow in the middle overs. Scutt then picked three quick wickets in the end as Katey Martin’s lone fight went in vain.
Ahead of the semi-final, Australia were left to grapple with the injury to star player Ellyse Perry as well as the possibility of a washout in Sydney, which would have given South Africa a pass to the final. Australia rose above it all, as they overcame a Laura Wolvaardt cameo to seal a final berth for the sixth consecutive time. Captain Lanning anchored the Australia innings, making a run-a-ball 49 against a disciplined South Africa bowling attack, which troubled the rest of the order. However, South Africa’s run chase fell flat after Sophie Molineux and Schutt left them at 24 for 3, as they fell short of the 134-run target despite the best efforts of Wolvaardt, who made a 27-ball 41.
India could not have had a better start, as they opened their campaign with a comprehensive win against the defending champions and hosts. It was Poonam Yadav‘s day, as the wristspinner bagged 4 for 19 to throttle Australia in their 132-run chase. India’s batting fell away in the middle after being put in, but a cool-headed Deepti Sharma made a 46-ball 49 to take India to a competitive total in front of a record crowd for a standalone women’s game in Australia. Ash Gardner and Healy tried their best for Australia, making 51 and 34 respectively, but Yadav, along with Shikha Pandey, stifled the opposition and removed eight batters for single-digit scores to guide India home.
India kept the momentum going with yet another comfortable win, this time against Bangladesh. Their batting show was powered by Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues, who put together an excellent powerplay, following which valuable contributions from the middle-order took them to 142 for 6. In the chase, Bangladesh were reeling at 66 for 4 in 12 overs but Nigar Sultana kept them in the game with a 26-ball 35. Bangladesh were also given reprieves throughout the innings but they never capitalised on them, with Yadav and Pandey starring once again with the ball for India.
India survived an Amelia Kerr scare to march into the semi-finals after beating New Zealand in a close game. Pandey held her nerve as she defended 16 off the last over against a red-hot Kerr, who had just blasted 18 runs off Yadav in the penultimate over. But the day belonged to Verma, who wowed the Melbourne crowed with some spectacular shots on her way to a 34-ball 46, while the rest of the line-up struggled on the sluggish surface. India, in turn, turned the screw on New Zealand, resorting to bowling slow deliveries that gave them good returns to leave the opposition reeling at 77 for 4. In came Kerr at No. 6 as she set out to put up a one-woman show for her side, but her efforts went in vain as she ran out of effective batting partners at the other end.
Verma was one of the obvious choices in the ‘players to watch out for’ category, and she proved why she was one in the match against Sri Lanka. India’s spinners strangled their opponents and were left to chase a below-par total at Junction Oval. Radha Yadav, well supported by Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Sharma, picked up her career-best figures as Sri Lanka put up yet another timid batting show. Verma led the strong reply, displaying a range of shots as she made a 34-ball 47 and attacking the experienced Shashikala Siriwardene in particular to all but seal the game for India. A run-out ended the chance of her getting a half-century and left India at 88 for 3 in 10.4 overs, but with just 28 runs required to win, it was an easy job for the rest of the line-up from there.
India were rewarded for their clean sweep in the group stage as they advanced to the final of the World Cup, for the very first time, after the semi-final against England was washed out. No reserve day meant India, who had one win more than their opponents in the group stage, got a pass to the final.