AUCKLAND: India’s path to the semifinals got a lot tougher after a six-wicket loss to Australia in the Women’s World Cup here on Saturday as the Meg Lanning-led side became the first to qualify for the last-four stage with a record chase in tournament history.
Half-centuries from skipper Mithali Raj (68 off 96 balls), Yastika Bhatia (59 off 83) and Harmanpreet Kaur (57 not out off 47) steered India to 277 for seven.
The total had never been chased before in tournament history but Australia’s ominous form and batting friendly conditions at Eden Park meant that they cruised to their fifth win in as many games.
Openers Alyssa Healy (72 off 65) and Rachael Haynes (43 off 52) got Australia off to a flier with a 121-run stand before skipper Lanning (97 off 107) took the team on the cusp of victory.
Jhulan Goswami needed to defend eight runs off the final over but Beth Mooney (30 not out of 20) got the job done in the first three balls.
The path to the semifinals has become tougher for India after their third loss in five games. The 2017 edition runners-up play their remaining games against South Africa and Bangladesh.
“When you lose you always feel you are 10-15 runs short. I think the way Australia started the innings, were always ahead of the asking rate. The fielders couldn’t back up the bowlers.
“The batting is something we wanted to improve and we did. We need to do well in all departments in the remaining games. Next two games are must win,” said Mithali after the game.
If batting was a concern for India before the game, Australia chasing down a stiff target with ease has given the bowlers plenty to ponder over.
Healy was the aggressor alongside the in-form Haynes and toyed with the Indian attack — be it pacers or spinners.
The likes of Jhulan Goswami and Meghna Singh were either too full or too short early on and Healy was quick to punish them with a flurry of cover drives, cut shots and pulls.
When India’s best spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad came into the attack, Alyssa used the sweep shot brilliantly to put more pressure on the opposition. India playing a bowler less in the absence of Deepti Sharma also did not help their cause.
With Australia marching to victory at 225 for two, a passing shower stopped proceedings at Eden Park but play resumed shortly and Australia completed the job with little fuss.
Earlier, Mithali and Yastika steadied the Indian innings with a 130-run stand for the third wicket after Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma fell cheaply. —PTI