Australia 161 for 8 (Mooney 61, Lanning 36, Gardner 25, Renuka 2-25, Rana 2-38) beat India 152 (Harmanpreet 65, Rodrigues 33, Gardner 3-16, Schutt 2-27) by nine runs
With a foot in the door, Australia barged it open by choking the lower middle order to clinch victory by nine runs as India lost their last eight wickets for just 34 runs. A crestfallen Harmanpreet, whose 43-ball 65 had lifted India into a match-winning position, sat motionless in the dugout, as did the rest of the team, who had to settle for the silver medal.
Meanwhile, Australia, holders of the 50-overs and T20 World Cups, added the only accolade they lacked – a gold medal at a multi-sports event – to reaffirm their status as the best team in the world.
India gave Alyssa Healy an early let-off two years ago in the T20 World Cup final, and saw her pummel a match-winning 39-ball 75. They may have briefly wondered if Healy would make them pay here too, when a thick edge off Renuka Singh flew just wide of where a regulation slip would be in the first over of the match.
Despite the early loss and a few quiet overs, Lanning and Beth Mooney exuded a sense of calm, knowing the kind of damage they could inflict once set. Both batters targeted the short straight boundary effectively off the spinners, and raised their half-century stand off just 37 balls. Australia picked off six boundaries in the ninth and tenth overs, including four in a single Harmanpreet over, to set themselves up superbly at 83 for 1 at the halfway stage.
After a tight first over in which she conceded just three tuns, Radha Yadav left her mark on the game in the 11th over when she showed terrific game-smarts to run Lanning out at the non-striker’s end. Having stopped a straight hit from Mooney, she quickly reverse-flicked the ball between her legs and onto the stumps with Lanning’s bat in the air when the stumps were disturbed. In the next over, her prowling presence of her at point resulted in a stunning catch as she threw herself full-stretch to dismiss Tahlia McGrath, who played the game despite testing positive for Covid-19.
Australia’s lower order goes big
Gardner offset any pressure Australia may have felt with some typically aggressive hits to pocket a quick 25 before she was stumped off Sneh Rana. Despite wickets falling around her, Mooney carried on, raising a half-century off just 36 deliveries. Australia didn’t allow the succession of wickets to stall their momentum, even as India’s fielders kept pulling off stunners, including a one-handed back-pedaling catch from Deepti Sharma to dismiss Mooney, and Meghna Singh’s catch running back from mid-on to remove the dangerous Grace Harris. Rachael Haynes muscled an unbeaten 10-ball 18 to push Australia past 160.
India lost both openers inside the first three overs. Smriti Mandhana was bowled behind her legs while looking to swing one into the leg side, ending an innings that had begun hopefully with scorching off-side strokes, while Shafali Verma slogged and holed out two balls after she was reprieved at cover by Megan Schutt.
Harmanpreet and Rodrigues keep India in the hunt
Five years after her knock for the ages in the 50-overs World Cup semi-final against Australia, Harmanpreet threatened to produce the T20 version of that epic 171* against the same opponents.
Gardner applies the choke
Australia’s relief turned into full-blown ecstasy when Gardner delivered a stunning second over, in which she removed the promoted Vastrakar and Harmanpreet off consecutive deliveries. While Vastrakar mistimed a hoick to deep midwicket, Harmanpreet fell attempting a paddle, the ball lobbing off her helmet to be caught behind by Healy. At that stage, Gardner’s figures were a magical 2-0-5-3.
As India lost wickets, the pressure caught up on them as batter after batter committed hara-kiri. Rana and Radha were run out, and Deepti, seemingly India’s last hope with them needing 13 off 10, was out lbw to Schutt.
It boiled down to India needing 11 off the final over, with Yastika Bhatia, who had come on as a concussion substitute for wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia, on strike to Jonassen. After turning down a single first ball, she ran an improbable second run off the second, in order to keep the strike, resulting in Meghna’s run-out at the danger end. With India now needing 10 off four balls, Yastika was out lbw attempting a reverse sweep.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo