Australia survive nailbiter to beat India and reach T20 World Cup final
A first-innings total of 172/4 proved just marginally out of India’s reach, despite a terrific middle-order effort that took the game right down to the final few deliveries.
Perhaps the big turning point in the match came when India’s captain Harmanpreet Kaur suffered a freak run-out with her bat stuck in the ground as she looked to run it in.
And with the captain back in the dugout, the need for quick runs at the death proved slightly too much for India to manage as they fell agonisingly short.
Victory for Australia means they have reached their seventh successive ICC Women's T20 World Cup final, and will be looking for their sixth title and third in succession when they return to Newlands to play either England or South Africa on Sunday.
The start of the reply saw runs flow, but Megan Schutt had Shafali Verma trapped lbw for 9 and Ash Gardner removed Smriti Mandhana for 2 to put the Aussies well on top early on. And a run-out of Yastika Bhatia strengthened Australia's grip on the game.
India’s decision to play an extra batter saw Harmanpreet Kaur join Jemimah Rodrigues out in the middle at number five, and the pair set about launching a counter-attack.
The 59 runs that India amassed in the Powerplay is the most an Australian attack have conceded in the first six overs of a match since the last Women’s T20 World Cup back in 2020.
And Kaur and Rodrigues put on 69 runs in an electric partnership that put India ahead of the rate before Rodrigues flicked a bouncer through to the keeper to depart for 43 from 24 balls.
The brilliant Kaur brought up her fifty in style, but disaster struck moments later, when she was run out in bizarre fashion for 52 just when it looked like India were favourites to go on and win the game.
And with Kaur removed, there proved just too much work to do for the lower order. A brilliant piece of fielding from Ellyse Perry swung the momentum firmly in Australia's favour in the field, andthey finished the match off brilliantly to win by five runs.
Earlier, it was Australia who won the toss and opted to bat first against India at Newlands, and the good news for India was that Kaur was out in the middle for the toss after rumours that she was feeling too unwell to play.
The sickness bug did mean that India were missing Pooja Vastrakar, with Sneh Rana brought straight into the team in her place, while there was an interesting tweak to the balance as they opted to add another top-order batting option in Yastika Bhatia.
Australia also shuffled their pack, bringing Alyssa Healy back after injury and opting to replace Alana King with the left-arm option of Jess Jonassen.
The returning Healy stroked the first ball of the innings for four to spark a solid opening partnership that made it through the Powerplay unscathed and built a 52-run stand.
But India finally made the breakthrough, with Radha Yadav tempting Healy down the wicket and Richa Ghosh pulling off the stumping, with Healy departing for 25.
And Beth Mooney reached her half-century before falling just moments later, caught by Shafali Verma who had dropped the opener earlier in the innings.
At 92/2 in the 13th over, Australia would have been confident of pushing on to a big score.
And Ash Gardner’s quickfire 31 from 18 certainly didn’t hurt those aspirations, with the all-rounder producing yet another stellar performance for her side.
But Deepti Sharma cleaned up Gardner and Shikha Pandey removed the dangerous Grace Harris for 7 as India kept things tight going into the final over.
A late flurry saw Meg Lanning finish unbeaten on 49* with new batter Ellyse Perry not out on 2* as Australia reached 172/4 – a strong total, but one that proved almost in-reach for India's talented batting line-up.
Kaur’s heart-breaking moment
It’s hard to overstate how well India’s captain was playing under enormous pressure down the order.
The game had looked long gone when she walked out to the middle in the Powerplay.
But her brilliant partnership with Rodrigues had given India momentum, and while Kaur was out in the middle it felt like India were favourites.
So to be dismissed in such a manner was gut-wrenching for the 33-year-old.
"It can't feel unluckier than this,” Kaur said immediately after the game. “We got the momentum back… to lose from there, we weren't expecting this.
“The way I got run out, can't be unluckier than that.”
Who awaits in the final?
Australia will play either England or South Africa in Sunday’s final.
The two teams in Friday’s second semi-final reached the knockout stage in contrasting fashion, with England winning all four of their group matches and hosts South Africa progressing despite defeats to Sri Lanka and Australia.
England’s best performance came in their final group fixture against Pakistan, when they smashed the highest score in the history of the Women’s T20 World Cup.
But South Africa deserve huge credit for bouncing back from the disappointment of a surprise loss to Sri Lanka on the opening evening of the tournament, and were at their best in an impressive win over New Zealand that proved pivotal in the end.