Australia Women280 for 4 (Lanning 97, Healy 72, Haynes 43, Mooney 30*, Vastrakar 2-43) beat India Women 277 for 7 (Raj 68, Bhatia 59, Harmanpreet 57*, Vastrakar 34, Brown 3-30, King 2-52) by six wickets
When you are 121 for no loss inside 19 overs chasing 278, the pursuit of the highest successful chase in an ODI World Cup doesn’t feel too daunting. When you are Australia, undefeated and title favourites with an unmatched batting depth, it’s almost inevitable, a matter of when, not if.
Predictably, despite pockets of fight from India, that’s how the final 30-odd overs of the match played out at Eden Park. Unsurprisingly, it was Alyssa Healy and the in-form Rachael Haynes, who set the tone of the chase before top-scorer Meg Lanning and the middle-order helped wrap up the six-wicket win. It was the 17th successful chase in a row for Australia in the format, the joint-longest winning streak along with the India men’s team in 2005-2006.
With that, Australia entered the knockouts of this edition of the World Cup with a fifth win on the bounce. India, runners-up in the 2017 World Cup, when they knocked Australia out in the semi-finals, now face two must-win games to hold on to any hopes of finishing in the top four.
Half-centuries from Mithali Raj, Yastika Bhatia and Harmanpreet Kaur, the first instance of India’s Nos. 3, 4, and 5 making fifties in a World Cup match, proved runs were there for the taking on the Eden Park belter. But the application and urgency Australia’s openers, Healy and Haynes, and later Lanning showed in reply to India’s 277 for 7 would have been beyond India’s expectations.
Healy and Haynes punished anything wide or wayward, running hard between the wickets even when the flow of fours remained quick and steady. In all, they pinched 33 singles, seven twos, four threes, and struck 14 fours in their century stand as Healy played the aggressor with her 65-ball 72, equalling her highest score of this World Cup.
It didn’t help that India’s attack showed little adaptability with their lengths or lines, with Australia galloping to 69 in the powerplay. That India were one bowler short – Deepti Sharma was left out in favour of Shafali Verma – also hurt them on a ground with short boundaries and batting-friendly conditions.
Not much was going India’s way when Sneh Rana delivered the breakthrough in the 20th over. Against the run of play, on an evening Healy swept the life out India’s attack, it was her first reverse sweep that found Raj at point. Haynes edged to Richa Ghosh behind the stumps off a Pooja Vastrakar bouncer the next over and India’s bowlers found a spring in their step. Australia had gone from 121 for no loss to 123 for 2.
But the shift of momentum only lasted so long. Lanning and Ellyse Perry‘s 103-run third-wicket stand, their 12th fifty-plus partnership in 14 ODI chases, neutralised the fightback, with Lanning strolling to her 50 off just 56 balls.
On the way to her highest score in this World Cup, Lanning put the cut to especially good use. Before Saturday, the shot had cost Lanning her wicket four times in as many innings, for just 25 runs off 22 balls. Against India, it brought her 46 runs in 29 balls.
Lanning and Perry took Australia past 200 with ease before the expected rain made an appearance after the 41st over. At the time, Australia were 225 for 2, well ahead of the DLS target of 197. The game paused for 22 minutes. It didn’t help Perry, who perished immediately after the restart for 28.
Mooney, who struck the winning runs with Australia needing eight in the final over, joined Lanning for another brisk stand even as the captain set herself up for a hundred that was not to be. With eight required off nine, Lanning sliced straight to Vastrakar at point off Meghna Singh. The last-minute hiccup, however, didn’t hurt Australia, thanks to Mooney’s two fours in the final over off Jhulan Goswami, whose 200th ODI ended on a forgettable note.
India’s batting on the day was not really off-colour. Asked to bat in overcast conditions, Raj and Bhatia’s 130-run third-wicket stand, bookended by penetrating spells from Darcie Brown, set the foundation for Harmanpreet Kaur and Vastrakar to add quick runs at the close of the innings
Dropped on 33 by Mooney off legspinner Alana King, Harmanpreet’s unbeaten 47-ball 57 helped steer India from 158 for 3 to the security of a par score. She added 64 for the seventh wicket with Vastrakar, who chipped in with a 28-ball 34 before being dismissed last ball, as India added 77 in the final ten overs.
India’s total didn’t look likely when they were 39 for 2 in the powerplay. Back in the Australian side after sitting out the last game against West Indies, 19-year-old Brown dealt India two big blows inside six overs. She enticed Smriti Mandhana into an expansive cover drive, which flew into the safe hands of first-slip Lanning, before having Verma caught by Mooney for 12.
India’s No. 3 changed hands for the third time in the tournament. But Bhatia, who had shouldered opening duties in the tournament before Saturday, rose to the occasion at first-drop. Partnering Raj for India’s highest third-wicket stand against Australia in ODI World Cups, Bhatia grinded an Australian attack that appeared to lack the incisiveness or discipline of their previous outings in this World Cup. They conceded 24 runs through wides, the most ever they have in an ODI World Cup match. Perry contributed ten of those, all in her opening over.
After Raj’s gritty 68 and Bhatia’s 59, a late injection of impetus came from Harmanpreet and Vastrakar in the final leg of the innings. Eventually, though, India’s effort across all three disciplines proved too feeble against an Australia side that seems to be racking up wins for fun.
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha