A captain's knock from Harmanpreet Kaur and some terrific bowling as well as fielding performance wasn't enough for India to get the gold medal in 2022 Commonwealth Games at Edgbaston on Sunday. Harmanpreet made 65 off 43 balls and also shared a 96-run stand for third wicket with Jemimah Rodrigues.
But the inability of recovering from losing a flurry of wickets taken by Ashleigh Gardner and Megan Schutt meant India clinched the silver medal in their maiden outing in the multi-nation games, losing by nine runs, the exact same margin by which they had lost the 2017 ODI World Cup final to England at Lord's.
Shafali Verma began by smashing Megan Schutt for a brace of boundaries in the 12-run opening over. But in the next over, Smriti Mandhana's shuffle caused her downfall as Darcie Brown uprooted her leg-stump. Shafali was then dropped at cover off Ashleigh Gardner at the start of third over. But on the fourth ball, she miscued again and was caught at mid-on.
Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur took time to settle in before taking three boundaries off Darcie in the final over of powerplay. While Jemimah made room to slice over cover-point, Harmanpreet pulled over mid-wicket and creamed a drive down on one knee to pierce through cover.
Jemimah continued to impress with her glorious off-side drives while Harmanpreet paddled for four and smoked a six down the ground to keep India afloat in the chase. Harmanpreet's fascination for leg-side boundaries continued as she swung, swiped, and reached her fifty in 34 balls with a flick through mid-wicket.
Post reaching her fifty, Harmanpreet smashed Alana for two more boundaries through the leg-side. Jemimah upped the ante with a slog off Megan, but the pacer had the last laugh on the third ball as she uprooted the right-hander's leg-stump.
India were plunged into deep trouble in the 16th over as Pooja Vastrakar holed out to deep mid-wicket off Ashleigh and Harmanpreet fell immediately as the edge off a premeditated scoop was caught by Alyssa Healy diving to her right. From there, despite coming neck and neck, India couldn't get over the line, leaving Harmanpreet & Co heartbroken, yet again as they lost their last eight wickets for 34 runs.
Earlier, a terrific fightback from India's bowlers in the last five overs meant Australia finished at 161-8. Apart from the 74-run stand between Beth and captain Meg Lanning, Australia wasn't allowed to break free as India conceded only 36 runs in the last five overs, taking five scalps.
India were splendid in their fielding, making tight stops, taking brilliant catches and effecting terrific run-outs. With the ball, Renuka Thakur and Sneh Rana took two wickets each while Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav had a wicket apiece.
Renuka and Meghna Singh built pressure on Australia as nine runs came off the first two overs, with an edgy four for Alyssa. That worked wonders for India as a last moment review showed Alyssa was trapped lbw by an inswinger from Renuka while going for a swipe across the line in the third over.
Beth got going with boundaries through drive and flick while Meg nailed a drive through off-side and then hit an effortless six over long-off as Australia reached 39-1 in power-play. Beth and Meg continued to rotate strike and hit occasional boundaries before the duo took 17 runs off Harmanpreet's first over, with the Australia skipper hitting three fours off her Indian counterpart.
But her promising knock was cut short by Radha flicking a sharp underarm throw to non-striker's end on Beth pushing back the ball to bowler, catching Meg inches short of her crease. Tahlia McGrath, playing despite testing positive for Covid-19, fell cheaply as Radha dived full length to her left at backward point to take a stunning catch off Deepti. Ashleigh had hit a few boundaries, including a towering six over long-on off Radha.
But Sneh deceived her with flight and loop to be stumped easily by Taniyaa Bhatia. Beth got her fifty by thumping a juicy full toss over long-off. But India continued to take scalps as Grace Harris miscued to mid-on off Renuka.
In the next over, Beth tried to clear long-on off Sneh. But Deepti backtracked from mid-on and stuck out her right arm even as she was losing balance to complete a one-handed blinder.
India's impressive fielding show continued as Meghna took a sharp catch at mid-wicket to send Alana King back while Jess Jonassen was caught short of her crease by a direct hit from Smriti. 161-8 was enough for Australia to continue their title-winning juggernaut.
Brief Scores: Australia 161-8 in 20 overs (Beth Mooney 61, Meg Lanning 36; Renuka Singh 2-25, Sneh Rana 2-38) beat India 152 all out in 19.3 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 65, Jemimah Rodrigues 33; Ashleigh Gardner 3-16, Megan Schutt 2-27) by nine runs.