Australia’s captain Meg Lanning
Australia’s captain Meg Lanning Image Credit: AFP

Captain Meg Lanning made 97 and Alyssa Healy 72 as Australia secured a semi-final place at the Women’s Cricket World Cup on Saturday when they beat India by six wickets with three balls remaining for their fifth win from as many as matches.

India laid down a challenge when they made 277-7 after being asked to bat in a match which always was going to be high-scoring on a fresh but flat pitch at Auckland’s Eden Park. They also bowled and fielded well to take the six-time champions into the final over in a record run chase.

Beth Mooney provided a cool head for Australia as they came to the final over needing eight runs to win. She struck a four from the first ball from Jhulan Goswami, who was playing in her 200th ODI, and another boundary from the third ball to clinch the win and finish 30 not out.

Lanning had been lacking runs in earlier matches but was Player of the Match for the way in which she measured Australia’s run chase.

“Personally it was nice to contribute,” Lanning said. “I was disappointed with the last couple of games but really felt at training I flicked the switch a little bit about how I wanted to play. It was nice to be able to execute and contribute to a win. It was a belter of a wicket. It came on really nicely, it didn’t turn and any width given was going to be hard to defend.”

India’s captain Mithali Raj was also her team’s top-scorer with 68 and Yastika Bhatia and Harmanpreet Kaur made centuries as India attempted to set a target which was beyond Australia’s reach.

But Healy and Rachael Haynes (43) put on 122 for the first wicket to lay the foundation for Australia’s run-chase and a 103-run partnership for the third wicket between Elysse Perry (28) and Lanning took them closer to victory.

India’s innings began in overcast conditions and under the threat of rain which posed a tactical conundrum. They had to be aware of run-rate in case rain became a decisive influence in the match later but, at the same time, preserve wickets.

Openers Smriti Mandhana (10) and Shafali Verma (12) both fell early to outstanding bowling from Darcie Brown, who missed Australia’s previous match against New Zealand but returned hungry for wickets.

India were 28-2 until Bhatia and Raj joined in a partnership of 130 for the third wicket which was the cornerstone partnership of the innings. There were times both with the bat and ball that India may have been guilty of letting the match drift.

Bhatia and Raj were together for just over 25 overs and for the most part, they kept the run-rate ticking along against the premier bowling attack in the tournament.

“Two wickets had fallen so Mithali and I had a chat to go at four or five runs an over and not lose a wicket,” Bhatia said. “I’ve been batting at No. 3 in the past, in domestics and in Australia so it was no surprise for me when (the coach) told me yesterday that I’d bat at No. 3. Brown bowled really well and due to windy conditions they were finding it difficult to control their line.”

India’s innings subsided a little after Bhatia’s dismissal but Kaur made a major contribution when she combined with Pooja Vastrakar to add 64 for the seventh wicket before Vastrakar was run out from the last ball of the innings.

Healy and Haynes gave Australia an outstanding start to their run chase, denying India the early wickets they need to exert pressure.

Haynes was relatively subdued but Healy reached her half-century from 49 balls and the pair brought up a century partnership from 97 deliveries.

Healy looked set when she attempted a reverse sweep from the bowling of Sneh Rana and hit the ball directly to Raj and short third man. Haynes was out soon after but Lanning and Perry allowed Australia to retain the upper hand with a stand of 103 for the third wicket.

Haynes was out with the end and a century in sight, caught at backward point by Vastrakar.

Australia are now assured of a semi-final place with a 5-0 record in the eight-team round-robin. India came into the match in fourth place and retained that position ahead of New Zealand and England who meet at Eden Park on Sunday.