Indian bowlers put up a valiant effort in a low-scoring thriller but rookie Tahlia McGrath won the battle of nerves at the death, guiding Australia to a four-wicket victory in the second women’s T20 International at Gold Coast on Saturday.

The win also saw the hosts clinch the multi-format series, taking an unassailable 9-5 with one match to go. The final t20I will be played on Sunday at the same venue.

Batting first, India put up a below-par show, scoring only 118/9 which was largely due to a late cameo (37 off 26 balls) by Pooja Vastrakar. Australia chased it down in 19.1 overs, courtesy rookie McGrath (42 not out off 33 balls).

Depsite the low score, the bowlers kept India in the hunt till the final few overs. McGrath launched into Shikha Pandey’s 18th over, getting 14 runs which proved to be a game-changer. Renuka Singh’s inexperience also cost India dearly as the 19th over yielded 13 runs with McGrath, playing only in her second T20 International, winning it for the hosts.

“We were 20 runs short. The wicket was not that easy to bat on. If we had 20 more runs the result might have been in our favour. We had a good game. We didn’t give them easy runs,” Harmanpreet said after the game.

“We fought till the end (but) would want the team to take more responsibility,” she added.

Right at the start of the match, Pandey (1/27 in 4 overs) bowled the ball of the series, a delivery that jagged back a long way to breach through Alyssa Healy’s (4) defence.

After that it was Rajeshwari Gayakwad who led the spinners to control the middle-overs by getting rid of Meg Lanning (15), drawing the Southern Stars skipper out with a flighted one and let the ball grip enough to beat her.

Ashleigh Gardener (1) was guilty of belting a half-tracker from Harmanpreet straight into point fielder Gayakwad. Deepti Sharma then got the dangerous Ellyse Perry (1) as Harmanpreet timed her jump to perfection at the cover, leaving Australia tottering at 46 for four.

Beth Mooney (34 off 36 balls) was cautious for the better part of her innings as McGrath started smashing the bowlers. Once Mooney was stumped off Gayakwad and Nicola Carey was also stumped off a rebound off Richa Ghosh’s body, India looked to be making a comeback at 94/6 but Pandey and Renuka couldn’t bowl tight lines to prevent McGrath from taking her team to victory.

Earlier, Vastrakar gave a fine exhibition of power-hitting as her superb 36 not out off 27 balls took India to 118 after they were reeling at 81/9 being put into bat.

Vastrakar, who has come of age as an all-rounder on this tour, hit three fours and two sixes at the back end to give India score to fight for. Interestingly, India scored 37 in the final three overs with Vastrakar making all the runs in the company of Gayakwad, who could not open her account.

“Pooja has the talent and she gets us runs and wickets whenever we need. That’s what we expect from her. We know Australia side is good. You always need to come out with good plans and a good approach against them,” Harmanpreet said.

After an impressive show in the first game where their fearless batting was lauded, Indian batters flattered to deceive as none save skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (28 off 20 balls) showed the intent of taking the attack back to the opposition camp.

Instead, there was an inexplicable batting collapse with the hit-pairing of Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma falling to Tayla Vlaeminck’s (2/18) pace.

Then, spinners Sophie Molineux (2/11 in 4 overs) and Ashleigh Gardner (1/12 in 4 overs) stifled the batters during the middle overs with 27 dot balls and three wickets, which broke the backbone of their batting.

With PTI Inputs