A spirited counterattack from captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues went in vain as Australia entered their seventh Women's T20 World Cup final with a five-run win over India in the first semifinal at Newlands Cricket Ground on Thursday.
After Australia's big players stepped up to make 172/4, India's top three aggregated only 15 runs among themselves. Harmanpreet and Jemimah rose to the occasion by making 52 and 43 respectively while spearheading the chase with a brilliant 69-run stand off 41 balls.
But the duo falling in 4.2 overs post the ten-over mark meant India could never recover from it and ended up at 167/8 in 20 overs, falling so close yet so far, once again.
India would also look at their sloppy fielding efforts and dropping two crucial chances apart from conceding 61 runs in the last five overs. In chasing 173, India didn't have a great start. Shafali Verma was trapped lbw while trying to flick off Megan Schutt.
Smriti Mandhana was rapped on pads in front of stumps while going for a cut-off Ashleigh Gardner. A horrible mix-up saw Yastika Bhatia run out, leaving India at 28/3.
But Jemimah looked in great touch from the word go, nailing the pull and drive off Ashleigh. Harmanpreet, on the other hand, began with a classy cover drive off Ellyse Perry.
With an emphasis to cut down the dot-balls, something which has been a problem area for India, Harmanpreet and Jemimah showed the intent to rotate the strike and looked to get a run off almost every ball.
Harmanpreet went on to smack Jess Jonassen hard over long-on for six and then used Megan's pace to paddle over the keeper for four more. Post bringing fifty of the partnership, Jemimah enthralled everyone with a brace of fours coming through dazzling inside-out drives over extra cover off Georgia Wareham.
After kickstarting the second half of the chase with a gorgeous cover drive off Darcie Brown, Jemimah fell while trying to ramp a short ball over Alyssa Healy's head and gave a thin edge behind to the keeper.
Harmanpreet then got a reprieve at 37 when Alyssa dropped the catch while stretching to her right side. That helped as Harmanpreet beautifully sliced Tahlia McGrath over backward point for four and then cut, and swept off Georgia to get back-to-back boundaries, the second of which got her fifty in the 15th over.
But in the same over, Harmanpreet was unfortunately run-out for 52 when her bat got stuck while trying to reach the crease. Darcie struck in the 17th over when she had Richa Ghosh holing out to deep mid-wicket.
Deepti Sharma pulled wide of mid-wicket off Ashleigh while Sneh Rana brought out a slog-sweep in the gap between deep square leg and deep midwicket off Megan.
With 20 needed off the last two overs, Ellyse Perry produced a full-length dive to save a boundary and gave away just two runs off Sneh's batting in a crunch situation. then closed the over by having Sneh clean bowled.
Ashleigh successfully defended 16 off the final over as Deepti's boundary on the last ball wasn't sufficient to avoid a loss for India. Earlier, opener Beth Mooney hit a delightful 53 while captain Meg Lanning applied the finishing touches with 49 not out as Australia posted a strong 172/4.
Beth, in her 37-ball knock, hit seven fours and a six apart from earning a reprieve, while Meg was outstanding in her 34-ball unconquered stay, hitting four boundaries and two sixes, to make up for a slow start Australia took 103 runs off the last ten overs.
India were sloppy in their ground fielding, catching, field placements while in their bowling, they were found wanting. Every India bowler had an economy of above 7.5, with fast bowler Shikha Pandey taking two wickets, while Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav took a wicket apiece.
Alyssa began by driving off Renuka Thakur on the first ball of the innings. She looked in scintillating touch, dancing down the pitch to loft Renuka over mid-on and then smashed Deepti in the gap between short extra cover and mid-off to pick a brace of boundaries.
On the other hand, Beth was good on anything having width from spinners. She began by cutting and thumping Deepti for four and six respectively. Shortly after Australia reached their fifty, Alyssa was stumped by Richa off Radha's bowling.
After a few misfields, India's insipid fielding show extended to their catching when Richa dropped a tough chance of Meg when she was at one. Beth continued to feast on width and loop from Radha, taking two fours, the second of which was a catch that Shafali dropped at 32.
Beth used her feet to loft Sneh inside-out to go over cover for four and then squeezed a cut on a wide yorker from Shikha as well as scooped over short third-man to get back-to-back boundaries, which took her to fifty.
Shortly after reaching her eighth fifty against India, Beth couldn't keep cut down and the ball went straight to Shafali at the backward point. Meg and Ashleigh feasted on some loose deliveries from India, bringing out cut, pull and sweep to take five boundaries off Sneh and Radha combined.
When Renuka came back in the 17th over, Ashleigh hit two boundaries straightaway, before she was clean-bowled by Deepti in the next over. Meg hit two fours and as many sixes in the last two overs, including taking 18 runs in the final over off Renuka, to give Australia a strong finish.
Brief scores: Australia 172/4 in 20 overs (Beth Mooney 53, Meg Lanning 49 not out; Shikha Pandey 2-32, Deepti Sharma 1-30) beat India 167/8 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 52, Jemimah Rodrigues 43; Darcie Brown 2-18, Ashleigh Gardner 2-37) by five runs