Spinners, Lanning power Australia into semi-final
Australia 227 for 2 (Lanning 76*, Perry 60*, Mooney 45) beat India 226 for 7 (Raut 106, Raj 69, Perry 2-37, Schutt 2-52) by eight wicket
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Australia secured a semi-final berth as they overpowered India's 226 for 7 with consummate ease on a slow turner in Bristol. India's inability to bring to the fore their power-game at various stages during the course of the 157-run second-wicket stand between centurion Punam Raut and Mithali Raj, who became the leading run-getter in Women's ODIs, left them shortchanged. They will now have to beat New Zealand in their final group game on Sunday to make it through to the semi-final of an ICC event for the first time since 2010.
Beth Mooney and Nicole Bolton added 62 for the first wicket in 15.4 overs to set Australia up. After Bolton bottom-edged a sweep off Poonam Yadav to Sushma Verma, the wicketkeeper, Meg Lanning dug in. Batting with a strapped shoulder, she displayed nimble footwork to negate India's spin troika of Ekta Bisht, Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav, to make 76 not out as Australia eased home with 29 balls to spare. She was complemented by the in-form Ellyse Perry, who finished with 60 not out, her fourth successive fifty to go with two wickets.
Where Australia's spinners wrested control - they combined to take 4 for 129 off 29 overs - partly due to India's diffidence with the bat, India's slower bowlers leaked a combined 183 in 34 overs. India's slow scoring was largely due to the inability of Raj to hit the ball off the square; she consumed 82 deliveries and limped past the 34 she needed to eclipse Charlotte Edwards' record.
Jess Jonassen and Kristen Beams used angles and flight to cut off scoring options for Raut and Raj. Their protection of the leg-side boundary kept teasing the batsmen to work against the turn, making it difficult to maneuver the ball over the off side.
Once the record was out of the way, Raj seemed a little more relaxed. The first sign of intent came three balls later as she waltzed down the pitch to hit a straight six to also become the first batsman in Women's ODIs to cross 6000 runs. By then, Punam was in her 50s. From time-to-time, she resorted to sweeping against the turn and bringing out the delicate paddles to keep the runs ticking. Off the pacers, she was particularly punishing towards Megan Schutt, who she shovelled and lap-swept to pick off boundaries.
Yet, at no stage did the pair give Australia any shivers. When Raj mistimed a lofted hit back to Beams in the 41st over, India had barely managed to cross the four-runs per over mark. Over the next six overs, Harmanpreet Kaur brought out the odd big hit to make a 22-ball 23, but Raut's wicket in the 47th led to a total breakdown. India lost four wickets for 16, with Deepti Sharma, their second-highest run-getter of the tournament, not coming out to bat until the final over.
Early in the chase, India kept things tight, conceding just 34 off the first 10. The situation was ripe for their spinners to mount a challenge. But Bisht's first over that went for three boundaries led to opening of the floodgates. Poonam Yadav looped the ball up, but by not landing it right on a surface where the turn was slow, gave the batsmen enough time to rock back and pull.
Lanning showed intent right from the time she walked out, lofting Yadav over her head for six off the fourth ball she faced. To compensate, the spinners resorted to bowling short and kept getting put away square of the wicket through cuts and sweeps. India didn't help matters by fielding as poorly as they did, runs regularly conceded by letting the ball through their legs at the boundary. All of this meant, the chase went cold at the halfway mark. For large parts of the last 15 overs, it seemed as if an extended net session was on, the sense of helplessness in India's ranks all too evident as what should've been a challenging chase turned into a cakewalk.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo