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Australia skipper Meg Lanning led from the front with a brilliant unbeaten half century to guide her side to an eight-wicket win over India and seal their semi-finals spot in the ongoing Women's World Cup here on Wednesday. The Australians have now 10 points in their kitty from six outings and sit on top of the table while India are fourth on the ladder with 8 points from six matches. The Indian eves now face a must-win situation in their final group tie against New Zealand on Saturday, to qualify for the last four stage of the tournament.
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Along with Australia, hosts England and South Africa have booked their place in the last four. Put in to bat, India rode on a defiant century from opener Punam Raut (106 off 136 balls, 11*4) and skipper Mithali Raj's 69 (off 114 balls, 4*4, 1*6) to post a below-par 227-run target which the Southern Stars chased down without much hiccups at the County Ground here. Punam and Mithali lifted India with a 157-run second wicket stand after a disastrous start but failed to continue the momentum in the later stages of the innings. All-rounder Harmanpreet Kaur (23 off 22 balls, 1*4, 1*6) was the only other batswoman to reach the double-digits as the middle order comprising Veda Krishnamurthy (0), Sushma Verma (6) and Jhulan Goswami (2) failed to provide any substance to the total.
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The 34-year-old Mithali, during her knock got past former England captain Charlotte Edwards's record of 5992 runs and also became the first woman to breach the 6000-run mark. In reply, the Australians got off to a brilliant start with the opening duo of Nicole Bolton (36 off 48 balls, 6*4) and Beth Mooney (45 off 68 balls, 5*4) setting the tone with a 62-run stand.
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Thereafter, Lanning (76 not out off 88 balls, 7*4, 1*6) and Ellyse Perry (60 not out off 67 balls, 8*4) held the innings together with a 124-run unbeaten stand for the third wicket to dent India's hopes. Perry also took two wickets with her gentle medium pace giving away 37 runs during the Indian innings.
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Brief Scores: India 226-7 (Punam Raut 106, Mithali Raj 69, Harmanpreet Kaur 23, Ellyse Perry 2/37) lose to Australia 227/2 (Meg Lanning 76 not out, Ellyse Perry 60 not out, Beth Mooney 45) by 8 wickets.