Australia Women surge into fourth straight final
Australia Women 132 for 6 (Lanning 55, Healy 25, Sciver 2-22) beat England Women 127 for 7 (Beaumont 32, Edwards 31, Schutt 2-15) by five runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
International victories are sweet, but some are sweeter than the others. On Wednesday, it was Meg Lanning-led Australia Women side that won the bragging rights over England Women, who stumbled to yet another defeat to their arch-rivals in a knockout clash. It left Australia eyeing a delicious prospect of pitching for their fourth successive Women's World T20 title come Sunday.
Lanning's 50-ball 55 on a slow Feroz Shah Kotla deck was the cornerstone to Australia's 132 for 6. England, who needed to achieve the highest successful run chase in the tournament to have a crack at their second title, choked despite having the target well within touching distance. They imploded with a combination of nerves and reckless shots. Katherine Brunt, who had a forgettable day with the ball, muscled a six and four to bring the equation down to 17 off 10 deliveries before Australia's killer instinct prevailed; England agonisingly falling short by five runs.
England came out all attacking in their chase, and also benefitted from some luck as a diving Beth Mooney put down a tough chance offered by Tammy Beaumont at mid-off in the fourth over. Charlotte Edwards, who started slowly, lent the artistic touch to the innings, before she chipped a catch to cover, against the run of play. Her dismissal ended a 67-run opening partnership that came at better than a run a ball.
Sarah Taylor, who had failed in each of her four innings in the group stages, then showed why she is a feared striker in the women's game as she stamped her authority immediately by hitting Jess Jonassen inside-out over cover for six. But the pressure of the asking rate resulted in her partners attempting shots they wouldn't otherwise.
Beaumont, after doing all the hard work, chipped one to cover where Lanning pulled off a stunner. Nerves then turned into proper panic when Natalie Sciver, who had brought England back into the contest with the ball, walked across the stumps, only to miss a full and straight delivery from Ellyse Perry. By then, England were reduced to 91 for 3, needing 42 off the last five overs.
Lanning then introduced spin even as Taylor, who grew increasingly frustrated, tried to reverse sweep and paddle her way, but to no avail against Kristen Beams, the legspinner. The slowness of the surface forced another change as Erin Osborne, the offspinner, brought in for the first time in the 17th over struck off her second delivery as Heather Knight holed out to long-on. From bossing the chase, England had almost bottled it by that point as the asking rate escalated to close to 10 runs an over.
That Australia had the luxury of runs on the board was courtesy a strong start from the openers Alyssa Healy and Elyse Villani. Healy, under scrutiny after a poor run of scores in the tournament, did the early running by taking the attack to Brunt and Anya Shrubsole with a 41-run stand, their highest of the tournament.
Healy's game is mostly about timing, and she set the template early on, showing the surface was a far cry to the ones both sides had encountered early on. Healy's four boundaries in the first three overs somewhat took pressure off Villani, who took a while to get going. England's pacers were guilty of not varying their pace and were duly put away, the first four overs yielding 35, before Australia were pegged back by a double-strike.
Sciver, the seamer, struck in her first over as Villani missed a straight one to be adjudged lbw. Off the next over, the sixth, Healy, also fell lbw attempting a reverse paddle to give Laura Marsh a breakthrough and leave Australia at 50 for 2.
Lanning and Perry did what they do best, milking the runs in the middle overs through smart strike rotation, seldom looking for the big hits to largely defensive fields set by Edwards. England didn't help their own cause by reprieving Lanning twice, once on 20 and 45, with Taylor being the culprit on both occasions.
Lanning went on to make a half-century, and help Australia post a more than competitive score courtesy support from her deputy Alex Blackwell, who contributed all of 11 in a 37-run stand for the fourth wicket. While most other sides may have looked to hit out, the match awareness of the pair on a surface that demanded application, and not flamboyance, may have resulted in those few extra runs that made the difference in the end.
As much as those extra runs may have come in handy, it wouldn't have been enough had Rene Farrell not brought her experience into play. She held her nerve, defending 12 off the final over in style, as Australia showed why they were the three-time champions.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo