Gros Islet (St. Lucia): After a disciplined bowling display, Alex Blackwell's enterprising batting took the Australian women to the final of the ICC World Twenty20.
Chasing 120, Australia defeated India by seven wickets in the first women's semifinal at the Beausejour Stadium here. Blackwell's 49-ball 61 put her side on course. Leah Pulton's 26-ball unbeaten 30 settled the issue.
The Indian women deserve credit for a stirring run in the competition. The side lost but showed commitment and spirit on the field.
India struck early when Elyse Villani played on to medium-pacer Jhulan Goswami in the first over.
The Aussies gradually assumed control.
Player-of-the-Match Blackwell was supported admirably by Shelly Nitschke.
The left-handed Nitschke danced down when left-arm spinner Gauhar Sultana gave the ball air. She drove the ball pleasingly through cover.
Blackwell dismissed Jhulan to the square boundary on the off-side. She also cashed in on the full tosses bowled by leg-spinner Priyanka Roy and clubbed seamer Amita Sharma more than once over mid-wicket.
Priyanka had Nitschke held at mid-off. Blackwell was, eventually, stumped off Priyanka but she had taken Australia close to the finishing line with plenty of overs remaining.
Earlier, Poonam Raut held the Indian innings together with a well-made 51-ball 44 after India elected to bat. She worked the ball into the gaps and drove firmly when the opportunity arose.
India lost Sulakshana Naik in the first over; she was caught at point off medium-pacer Rene Farrell.
Poonam steadied the innings. She is a compact player who times the ball well. Perhaps her best stroke was a lofted stroke over covers off Farrell.
Wristy and elegant
Mithali Raj, wristy and elegant, began well pulling medium-pacer Clea Smith to the fence. She has been in fine form in the competition.
Lisa bowled well in tandem with left-arm spinner Shelly Nitschke.
The pitch offered a measure of assistance to the spin bowlers.
Poonam and Harmanpreet Kaur (24 off 27 balls) then put on 57 for the third wicket. While the Indian women consolidated, the accurate Australian attack and good ground-fielding seldom – the Aussie put down at least two skiers though – did not allow the batting side to break free.
Smart cricket by bowler Ellyse, who stopped Poonam's drive and then flicked the ball to the stumps ended Harnampreet's stay. Skipper Jhulan Goswami was done in by a direct hit from Blackwell. Soon, Poonam was held in the deep off Ellyse.
India lost wickets towards the end but Rumeli Dhar and Amita Sharma added handy runs towards the end. Amita struck Smith for the maximum in the final over.
These runs were not enough to stop the Aussies.
The scores: India 119 for five in 20 overs (P. Raut 44) lost to Australia 123 for three in 18.5 overs. (A. Blackwell 61, L. Poulton 30 n.o.) .