As they say, you can't predict the result till the last ball bowled in cricket, once again that proved right in the final of Tri-series between India and Australia at Junction Oval on February 12. Australia snatched the title from India who were in a winning position until the final six overs on the back of five-wicket haul, taken by Jess Jonassen.
India required 45 runs in the last six overs with the set batter Smriti Mandhana and the captain Harmanpreet Kaur in the middle. Mandhana who steered the innings from the beginning was batting at 62 off 35. However, she failed to carry forward her form as Australia bowlers pulled off a great job.
After hitting Megan Schutt a boundary to the deep mid-wicket, Smriti Mandhana missed the back of length delivery while trying to pull and Nicola Carey grabbed a good catch at the deep mid-wicket. However, her dismissal did not affect much if not Jess Jonassen took two crucial wickets in the next over and turned the table.
With a sure losing position after 15 overs, Australia captain Meg Lanning handed over the ball to Jonassen and she delivered. At first, she trapped Harmanpreet Kaur before the stumps for 14 and then removed Arundhati Reddy for a 2-ball duck.
In the next over, Ellyse Perry dismissed Shikha Pandey. Although Taniya Bhatia tried to score some quick 7-ball 11, Jess Jonassen put the last nail in the coffin by taking final three wickets of India. She registered a five-wicket haul while conceding only 12 runs that dismantled India's line up in the final.
Before her stunning spell, while chasing, India lost their opener, Shafali Verma, for mere 10. However, a 43-run stand came from debutant Richa Ghosh and Smriti who took the onus on her shoulder. Richa scored 17 whereas Jemimah Rodrigues failed to contribute today. Once again middle-order failed to perform under pressure and crumbled within their allotted 20 overs.
Earlier in the game, Meg Lanning won the toss and chose to bat first. Alyssa Healy's poor-run continued with the bat. Although she welcomed Deepti Sharma with a boundary, Sharma has the last laugh. She bowled a length ball outside the off-stump which Healy tried to cut but got an outside edge and Bhatia did the rest.
In-form Ashleigh Gardner came to the crease and started hitting from the beginning. With 5 boundaries, she scored 24 before Arundhati Reddy successfully broke the 52-run partnership. She mis-timed the length ball while trying to drive but ended up giving a catch to Gayakwad at the cover.
Indian bowlers did a good job by putting Australia under pressure as they didn't let them open their arms. Australia managed to put up only 107 before Lanning got out for a 19-ball 26. Soon, in-form Ellyse Perry and Annabel Sutherland also joined them in the dugout.
While the wickets started falling from one end, Beth Mooney stood strong at the other. She along with Rachael Haynes took the bowlers at the end of their innings. While Haynes welcomed Deepti with a boundary towards fine leg, Mooney took on Radha Yadav for a deep extra cover boundary.
Haynes then hit a maximum and a four off Gayakwad in the final over and two fours from Mooney took Australia to a decent competitive total of 155 for 6 on the board. Beth Mooney remained unbeaten at 71 off 54 with 9 boundaries. For India, both Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad took 2 wickets.
With this series, both the teams got ample time to experiment with their squad, it will be interesting to see how both these finalists work on their loopholes and open the campaign of ICC World T20 on February 21.
Brief Score: Australia 155/6 (Beth Mooney 71, Deepti Sharma 2/30) beat India 144/10 (Smriti Mandhana 66, Jess Jonassen 5/12) by 11 runs.