BIRMINGHAM: Hot favourites Australia held their nerve to beat India by nine runs in a Twenty20 thriller at Edgbaston on Sunday as they won the first women’s cricket gold medal in Commonwealth Games history.
Opener Beth Mooney top-scored with 61 as Australia made 161-8 in their 20 overs in the warm Birmingham sunshine.
India appeared on course for a shock win as they cruised to 118-2 in the 15th over, but a clatter of wickets slowed their charge.
They still found boundaries to stay in the hunt and reached the final over with 11 runs needed and two wickets in hand.
But Meghna Singh was run out off the second ball and Yastika Bhatia was trapped lbw the following ball by left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen.
“It’s absolutely huge,” said Jonassen.
“We are blessed enough to be part of some winning World Cup teams but to win the first gold medal for women’s cricket in the Commonwealth Games, you’re only ever going to do that once.”
Victory underlined the dominance of Australia’s women, who are also the reigning world champions in the 20-over and 50-over formats.
Meg Lanning’s side had earlier looked set for a bigger total after they had rattled along to 83-1 off 10 overs.
But Lanning was dismissed for 36 courtesy of a brilliant piece of fielding by bowler Radha Yadav, who back-flicked the ball onto the stumps to run the Australia captain out at the non-striker’s end.
Tahlia McGrath, allowed to play despite testing positive for coronavirus, was next to go, caught brilliantly by Yadav at backward point.
Australia’s run-scoring was checked by an impressive India fielding display that led to the fall of several wickets.
Mooney was dismissed in the 18th over thanks to a stunning catch by Deepti Sharma, who clung onto the ball one-handed as she backtracked.
India were in deep trouble at the start of their innings, losing in-form opener Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma early on.
Jemimah Rodrigues and captain Harmanpreet Kaur rebuilt the innings at a packed and raucous ground, where most of the support was for India.
But just when India appeared to be on their way to victory, Rodrigues was bowled by Megan Schutt for 33 in the 15th over, ending a stand of 96.
The following over India suffered a huge double blow when Pooja Vastrakar was caught in the deep off the bowling of Ash Gardner and Kaur was caught by wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy off the next ball for 65, leaving them 121-5.
India still took the match to the last over but the target was just beyond them and they were bowled out for 152 with three balls remaining in their innings.
Off-spinner Gardner, who returned miserly figures of 3-16 in three overs, described the situation with McGrath as “unusual”.
“We have our doctor on tour and we were just listening to whatever she said and she said it was safe for her to play,” she said.
“Obviously we didn’t mingle with her so we all felt we were safe enough out there.”
In the bronze medal match earlier on Sunday, New Zealand coasted to an eight-wicket win over hosts England, who could only muster 110-9.
New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine top-scored with 51 not out as her side romped home with more than eight overs to spare.
READ: PSB announces Rs5m cash award for Arshad after historic gold in CWG