Opener Beth Mooney and spinner Jess Jonassen were the standout performers as hosts Australia won the Twenty20 International tri-series with a close 11-run win over India at the Junction Oval in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Set a target of 156, India collapsed to 144 all out after being well-placed at 115/3 in the 15th over, with opener Smriti Mandhana’s 37-ball 66 going in vain.
The last over of Australia’s innings made all the difference as Rajeshwari Gayakwad leaked 19 runs to let Australia off the hook as they finished with 155/6.
At the end of the 19th over, Australia were finding it difficult to free their arms at 136/5. However, Mooney, who was adjudged player of the series for her 208 runs, and Rachael Haynes (18 off 7 balls) hit out in the last six balls to prop up Australia.
“It was a really good all-round performance. Getting Mandhana was the game-changer, she was whacking us all over the park,” said Australian captain Meg Lanning.
Opting to bat, Australia managed to post 155/6 in their stipulated 20 overs with Mooney carrying her bat with an unbeaten 71.
India started well with the ball. Alyssa Healy (4) was dismissed in the very first over of the summit clash by Deepti Sharma, extending the wicketkeeper’s woeful run with the bat. But Mooney found an ally in Ashleigh Gardner (26) and the duo added 52 runs for the second wicket, and then Lanning, who also made 26 during a 51-run third-wicket stand.
Deepti Sharma, who opened the bowling, finished with impressive figures of 2/30 in her four-over spell, while Gayakwad finished with 2/32.
Chasing a challenging target, Mandhana was up to the task at hand and smashed 12 boundaries in her knock. Teenager Shafali Verma started strong as well, with 10 runs in the first over, but could not control her shots and was caught in the deep.
Coming in at No 3 on her debut, 16-year-old Richa Ghosh scored 17 off 23 balls, but like Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues later, was dismissed off mistimed shots.
Harmanpreet Kaur and Mandhana then stitched up a crucial 50-run partnership, off only 26 balls, to bring India close to a win. But the opener’s dismissal in the 15th over, caught brilliantly by Nicola Carey at deep mid-wicket, turned the match in Australia’s favour as they put the brakes on India’s scoring and got regular breakthroughs.
“In the last three overs we couldn’t take the pressure and ended up losing wickets,” said Harmanpreet, reflecting on the loss.
A sensational five-wicket haul by seasoned left-arm spinner Jonassen saw her clean up the middle and lower order to finish with brilliant figures of 5 for 12 in four overs, making her only the third Australian bowler to return a five-for in the women’s T20 format.