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|Women’s World Cup semi-final, Derby|
|India 281-4 (42 overs): Kaur 171 not out, Gardner 1-43|
|Australia 245 (40.1 overs): Blackwell 90, Villani 75, Pandey 2-17|
|India won by 36 runs|
Harmanpreet Kaur’s stunning century helped India beat six-time champions Australia by 36 runs in Derby and reach the Women’s World Cup final.
Kaur smashed an unbeaten 171 – the highest score by an India player at a World Cup – as they made 281-4 from their rain-reduced 42 overs.
A big-hitting cameo from Alex Blackwell (90) gave Australia hope but they were bowled out for 245 with 11 balls left.
Mithali Raj’s side will face England in Sunday’s sold-out final at Lord’s.
Kaur’s powerful hitting, which included 20 boundaries and seven sixes, put the defending champions under pressure as India struck 81 runs from the final six overs.
Australia were nine wickets down and still 113 runs behind when Blackwell began to hit out.
Her aggressive innings, the vice-captain striking 10 boundaries and three sixes, took Australia to within touching distance of reaching their ninth World Cup final.
It is the first time India have reached a World Cup final since 2005 in South Africa, where they lost to Australia by 98 runs.
Kaur fireworks stuns Australia
After a three-hour delay and faced with a miserly Australia bowling attack, Kaur looked stuck until Raj was dismissed by leg-spinner Kristen Beams for 36.
Once Raj fell, Kaur found her feet, targeting the Australian spinners and the off-target pace of Megan Schutt as she moved from 50 to three figures in just 26 deliveries.
Kaur’s century was marred by her own over-reaction when, on 98, she called partner Deepti Sharma through for a quick two. Kaur turned quicker than Sharma and both players were briefly stranded mid-pitch, before the throw from mid-wicket hit Sharma’s stumps.
A review showed that Sharma was in, but Kaur had already thrown her helmet and bat away in frustration and was yelling at her partner as it was confirmed she had reached three figures.
An embarrassed Kaur apologised to Sharma, who was near tears, and later put all her frustration into consecutive towering sixes off off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner as she plundered 23 runs from one over.
Despite losing Sharma towards the end of the innings, Kaur barely let up, taking 19 runs from one Elyse Villani over despite clearly struggling with cramp.
She raced from 100 to 150 in just 17 deliveries as she made the fifth highest score in women’s ODIs and left Australia looking uncertain.
‘Best innings I’ve seen’ – analysis
Ex-England captain Charlotte Edwards: “The innings was out of this world. If you put it into context – against Australia, in a semi-final, to play at Lord’s – I don’t know how she’s played with that freedom and power. It was unbelievable hitting.
“That was the best innings I’ve ever seen and some of the best hitting you are going to see. She picked her gaps with ease, and such power.”
Blackwell takes Australia close
Meg Lanning, who has struggled with a shoulder injury throughout the tournament, looked static as she fell for an eight-ball duck and Australia were soon floundering at 21-3.
Elyse Villani has had an underwhelming career – prior to this match she had scored just two half-centuries in 24 innings – and had twice fallen to her first ball in this tournament, but she showed intent from the beginning.
She stood out of her crease to strike both spinners and seamers across the ground and overcame a drop on 10 to bring up her 50 from 41 balls, including 10 boundaries.
However, India dried up her run-scoring options and she chipped spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad to Smriti Mandhana to spark Australia’s downfall.
Perry had made four consecutive half-centuries in this World Cup but after opening the bowling she looked tired, and ended her innings sending a simple catch through to the wicketkeeper.
The players watched forlornly from the sides as they lost four wickets for 29 runs, before Blackwell let loose.
She struck Gayakwad for two straight sixes, forcing Raj to turn to her part-time bowlers, but Blackwell was savvy enough to rotate the strike to protect number 11 Beams.
However, there was only so much Blackwell could do, and she was bowled trying to swat Sharma out of the ground to spark raucous celebrations from India.
What the captains said
India captain Mithali Raj: “Harman’s innings was exceptional and the bowlers have done very well. Overall, this unit looks compact now, after losing we came back and beating Australia is a huge achievement.
“We have players who of international standard, someone stands up in every game. The top order is scoring when it is needed and response from the bowling unit has been brilliant.
Australia captain Meg Lanning: “The innings from Kaur was incredible, we couldn’t stop her and it was a very special effort in a high-pressure game so well done to India. Alex Blackwell was hitting it well at the end and we left her too much to do, but her knock was outstanding.
“I don’t think we really nailed a full game at any stage of the tournament, so it was a disappointing end.”
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