LONDON: Harmanpreet Kaur helped India stun defending champions Australia by 36 runs to reach the ICC Women’s World Cup final for only the second time on Thursday.
Chasing a massive 282-run target in a rain-curtailed 42-overs-a-side, Australia were bowled out for 245 in 40.1 overs as India registered a comprehensive win. India will face England, the three-time champions, in Sunday’s final at Lord’s.
Alex Blackwell (90 off 56 balls) and Elyse Villani (75 off 58 balls) hit quick-fire fifties but the target turned out to be too much for Australia. Deepti Sharma (3/59) took three wickets while pacers Jhulan Goswami (2/35) and Shikha Pandey (2/17) scalped two wickets each for India.
Earlier, Harmanpreet Kaur played inarguably one of the finest ODI innings ever to lead India to an imposing 281 for four. The Indian vice-captain smashed her way to a career-best magical 171 off 115 balls, leaving the Australian bowlers in a daze in a match that has been curtailed due to inclement weather.
This was India’s highest ever total against the Southern Stars and could well be a match-winning total. The innings could well be termed as the best ever played by an Indian woman in the limited overs cricket.
Harmanpreet’s third ODI century was embellished with 20 fours and as many as seven sixes. This is also the second highest individual score in ODIs for India behind Deepti Sharma’s 188 not out against South Africa earlier this year. It was out of the world power-hitting by the girl from Moga district in Punjab — something that has made her a stand-out player for India.
The milestone from 51 to 100 was reached in 26 balls while she raced to 150 from 101 in mere 17 balls. The sixes flew from her bat with monotonic regularity as the Aussie bowlers had no clue as to what hit them. After a dry run during the better part of the league stage, India’s most sought after T20 cricketer stepped up just when it mattered the most.
After a useful 60 against New Zealand in the virtual quarter-final, Harmanpreet upped the ante like never before. She batted like as if there was no tomorrow as she repeatedly hit the troika of left-arm spinner Jess Jonasen (0/63 in 7 overs), off-break bowler Ashleigh Gardner (1/43 in 8 overs) and leg-spinner Kirsten Beans (1/49 in 8 overs) with utter disdain. Her footwork against the spinners was exemplary as she would repeatedly come down the track to loft them in the arc between long-on and deep mid-wicket.
She seemed in some discomfort with side strain but that did not deter her from targetting the on-side as a whopping 137 runs was added in 13.4 overs along with Deepti Sharma (25) for fourth wicket. Such was her focus that once she scampered home for a double to complete her hundred, she was seen shouting at Deepti after she flung her helmet in disgust. She regained her composure, said sorry to a teary-eyed junior and like a woman on mission completely annihilated the opposition bowlers.