Star all-rounder Ash Gardner has no doubt that Australia's supreme fielding was the point of difference that helped her side clinch a nail-biting five-run victory over India in the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2023 semi-final, here.
Australia's catching and desperation in the field on Thursday night was a class above during the cut-throat clash as the reigning T20 World Cup champions held their nerve to successfully book a spot in Sunday's final.
Tahlia McGrath and Ellyse Perry held on to outfield catches late in India's run chase to help guide Australia home, while two runs outs -- including the key wicket of Harmanpreet Kaur in bizarre circumstances -- highlighted what was yet another excellent fielding performance from Meg Lanning's side.
But it was the efforts of Perry in the outfield that stood out most as the veteran flung her body around the rope to save all but certain boundaries on two occasions that proved the difference, according to Gardner.
On the other hand, India's fielding in the semi-final left a lot to be desired. Lanning and Mooney were dropped at least once each while there were a lot of misfields, too, from the first over.
"I think we showed our class today in the field and we always speak about as a group being the best fielding team in the world, and I think today really showed that," Gardner said after claiming the Player of the Match award for her quickfire 31 and figures of 2/37.
"Ellyse Perry was elite on the boundary and she probably saved six runs herself. To think whether it's drop catches, missed opportunities in the field, those ultimately add up to quite a lot of runs.
And I think we took those moments and those pivotal moments when we really needed to. I certainly think Pez was probably the blueprint for our side that could have been something that I guess was the difference between us and them," she added.
It is that edge in the field that still ensures Australia has their neck ahead of opposition teams and Gardner said the players and coaches alike take this part of the game very seriously.
"We have KPIs and there's markers that show us whether we're positive or negative in the field. So that's one thing that after a game, if we know that we've fielded badly, we could be minus-10.
But if we've fielded really well, we're plus-six and we do it for both sides," Gardner revealed. So, there's a pretty clear indication how we've fielded, obviously it is subjective.
But I think we just know how to push each other. I think our athletic ability is also one of the things that we're probably at the higher end of nations around the world and that's something that we really pride ourselves on is being fit, being strong.
And ultimately that's one of the things that has an impact in the field," she added. A final against either England or South Africa now awaits Australia in Cape Town on Sunday and Gardner is hoping for a good turnout at the picturesque Newlands ground.
"There's a few Aussie supporters here today, which is really nice to see," Gardner noted. "There weren't many of them, but their voices were certainly heard.
But it's just really pleasing to see that people are coming out hopefully, fingers crossed on Sunday, we have a full crowd here at Newlands," she added.