India defeated defending champions Australia in a thrilling semi-final clash at Derby. Rain delays at the start shortened the match to 42-over a side. Batting first, India went on to score a mammoth 281-run total which at the end proved too much for the Australian side. Indians won the match by 36 runs restricting the Aussies to 245 all out. Harmanpreet scored a staggering 171 not out to lift the Player-of-the-Match Trophy.
The match was intervened by the rains even before the toss so there was no Duckworth-Lewis was in play. India capitalized on the wet field conditions which after a drizzly beginning did not allow the ball to grip on the surface. The top order much like the other matches disappointed here too. Both Smriti and Punam went in for modest totals which made the situations more hindering for the India win. But Mithali and Harmanpreet rose again to the rescue like the way they did against New Zealand but this time Harmanpreet was the driver. Together they piled on 66 runs for the 3rd wicket before Mithali fell victim to Kristen Beams.
This wicket rather than slowing things up brought the pace of the game rather high. Realizing it was a 42-over game, Harmanpreet alongside Deepti decided to accelerate. She hit some beautiful orthodox shots through cover and mid wicket and also did not shy away from taking the aerial route. She and Deepti put up 137 for the fourth wicket but Deepti only contributed 25 as a secondary onlooker. Harmanpreet was nowhere close to shutting down even after Deepti was sent back. She kept on demolishing the Aussie attack. Sparing no one on the way, she hit Villani for 19 in her only over. Back to back sixes in the death overs left the Australians dejected at the field. Scoring 171, she broke the record for the highest individual score by an Indian at the World Cup. Veda Krishnamurthy as her final partner scored 16 off 10 to seal the Indian innings at 281.
The pressure of a World Cup semi final, chasing a gigantic score of 282, the slippery Derby wicket all seemingly seeped into the Aussie dressing room. The openers did not do a good job of providing the foundation as the first wicket fell in the second over. A tight field setting then worked against Lanning who was struggling to get off the mark. Under the pressure of the building required rate, she missed a straight one from Jhulan providing India the second and a more important breakthrough. The third wicket too soon followed at the score of just 21. The Australian batting was really stumbling at this point. There was silence in their camp.
Out came Villani on to the crease. She along with Perry gave Australia the hope that everything was not yet over. Her ravishing innings of 75 from 58 helped them find their way back into the game. She and Perry were looking good until a few tight overs got through their patience. Villani was trapped by Gayakwad as she sliced one straight to Mandhana at long on. Soon followed Perry and Healy who too fell victim to the pressure of the rising required rate. Any other team would have given up by this moment, but the six-time champions were far from over.
Vice-captain, Blackwell did not give up the chase and made every last bit of attempt that could have been possible. Her 90 of 56 included 3 sixes. The last wicket partnership lasted for 76 runs which were becoming a headache for the Indian side. Finally in the second last over Deepti Sharma sent Blackwell packing as her bails were left flying after being bowled over. They could manage a total of 245 which was not enough to match India’s.
For India, Sharma was the most successful bowler with 3 wickets to her name. Goswami and Pandey clinched 2 each whereas the crucial wicket of Villani was taken by the last match fifer Gayakwad. In all, it was a superlative batting display from the Indian middle order and an experienced Australian side succumbing to the pressure of the semi-final.
England had already made its way to the finals after its triumph over South Africa in the first semi-final. This would be India’s first final appearance against England as their only previous experience was against Australia in 2005. India would have an advantage of an earlier win in the tournament whereas these are home conditions for the hosts. We would have to wait for the finals for the coronation of the World Champion.