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WWC 2017; IND v AUS, Semi-final 2 Review: Harmanpreet fires India into the finals

India emerged victorious on the big day by 36 runs and they will lock horns with the hosts England at the home of cricket on Sunday.

India
India bowler Shika Pandey celebrates with wicketkeeper Sushma Verma. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The semifinal of Women’s World Cup 2017 witnessed one of the greatest innings in the history of Women’s cricket and knockout matches in particular. Indian batter Harmanpreet Kaur blasted a magnificent 171 off 115 balls with 20 fours and 7 sixes to propelled Team India into the finals of the tournament. Hot favorites and defending champions Australia were stunned in the Derby and the Women in Blue will now be combating England at the Lord’s and the tournament now ends exactly how it began with a clash between the two teams.

Winning the toss, Mithali Raj had no hesitation in batting first. But once again, early wickets put jagged India into a catch-22 situation where they had no other option but to steady the ship in the first place. The match was shortened to 42-overs per side after rain had killed almost 2 hours of play, the Aussies started exerting pressure and the Indian ship was moving forward at a very slow pace.

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With 3 more deliveries left in the powerplay, Punam Raut was caught at mid-wicket and that brought Harmanpreet to the crease to accompany the skipper. Both these experienced batters took the onus upon themselves and kept rotating the strike really well. But just the way it happened in the group stage encounter, the run-rate never went beyond 4.

An innings that will be remembered for eternity

Just after India crossed the 100-run mark in the 25th over, Mithali who was batting on 36 off 60 balls tried to cut a ball which was too straight in line and that sent her stumps for a cartwheel. Only something remarkable could’ve saved India from that situation and the cult-warrior from Punjab was up for the challenge.

Harmanpreet completed her half-century off 64 balls and her partner Deepti Sharma (25 off 25 balls) also took some time to settle-in. What followed from the 30th over was some ferocious, astounding and inexplicable striking. Harmanpreet launched an assault on the “Might Aussies” and every woman in the yellow jersey was flabbergasted.

Clearing the boundary rope was as easy as it could get. She danced down the ground at her will and every bowler took the beating. She moved from 50 to 100 in just 26 balls and then struck the very economical Gardner for 23 runs in the 37th over. Though she was cramping up, the onslaught continued and runs were flooding.

Deepti who quietly kept watching the drama unfold from the other end, had to up the ante with just 4 overs left in the inning and in the process, she got out to Villani. Just after the 19-year-old walked back, the star of the day completed her 150 and to get there from the hundred, it took her just 17 balls.

Harmanpreet and Veda Krishnamurthy (16 not out) then clobbered 43 runs off 20 balls together and India notched up a mammoth 281 runs in 42 overs. As the teams walked backed to the gallery, the world witnessed some unexpected scenes, joy on the faces of Indians and tentativeness wrecking every Aussie nerve. Harmanpreet walked off a massive ovation.

A splendid fight back from Villani and Perry

“Cometh the hour, cometh the champion”, Jhulan Goswami did justice to this phrase. Chasing a gigantic total, Shikha Pandey provided them with the first breakthrough in the second over and in walked the best batter of the tournament thus far, Meg Lanning. Though she was carrying a niggle, she is always a force to reckon with.

The Indian skipper turned to Jhulan to get the big fish and the tall fast bowler bowled an absolute peach to rattle Lanning’s stumps. In form Nicole Bolton (14) then chipped one straight to the bowler Deepti Sharma and Aussies were reduced to 21/3 in 7.3 overs.

The Australians are termed “Mighty” and Elyse Villani (75 0ff 58 balls) and Ellyse Perry (38 off 56 balls) showed the world why they are called so. Villani came with an intent to score runs quickly and alike Harmanpreet, she was able to clear the boundary at will. Perry just blocked the other end and tried to bring in every little bit of her experience into play.

The carnage just took legs and boundaries started to flow at an alarming rate for the Indians. Poonam Yadav was being targeted and the other spinners too failed to create an impact, which ensured Australia marched on with ease. Villani completed a magnificent half-century off just 41 balls.

Just when the game was running away, Rajeshwari Gayakwad picked the prized scalp of Villani, a wicket that came completely out of the blue. That pretty much seemed like settling the match as Perry soon followed her partner as Shikha Pandey found her outside edge. They lost another 3 wickets in quick succession and were reeling at 154/8.

Alex Blackwell (90 off 56 balls) had other ideas loitering in mind and she didn’t go down without a fight. Though the experienced Megan Schutt’s wicket left them at 169/9, Blackwell’s marvelous solo effort almost took Australia over the line. With Lanning injured, Perry and Blackwell were the key to Australia’s success and the latter didn’t disappoint by any stretch of imagination.

Her effort though, could only reduce the losing margin and help her side bow out with dignity. India emerged victorious on the big day by 36 runs and they will lock horns with the hosts England at the home of cricket on Sunday.

Brief Scores

India: 281/4 in 42 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 171*, Mithali Raj 36, Deepti Sharma 25)

Australia: 245 all out 40.1 overs (Villani 75, Perry 38, Blackwell 90; Deepti 3/59, Jhulan Goswami 2/35)

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