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Mooney, bowlers power Australia to six-wicket win

Australia women 156 for 4 (Mooney 45, Villani 39, Goswami 3-30) beat India women 152 for 5 (Mandhana 67, Patil 35, Gardner 2-22, Perry 2-31) by six wickets

A familiar script that had underpinned the one-sided ODI series between the teams in Vadodara played itself out in the T20I tri-series opener, too. Australia romped to a six-wicket win over India, thanks to Beth Mooney's 45, two wickets each from Ellyse Perry and Ashleigh Gardner, and India's inability to prop up Smriti Mandhana's third successive half-century.

Resuming momentum from her 67 and 52 in the last two ODIs, Mandhana earned herself the distinction of India's fastest T20I half-centurion. The innings transpired after Australia captain Meg Lanning sent India in, and a maiden over from Megan Schutt greeted Mithali Raj and the 100-odd spectators on Thursday morning at an otherwise empty Brabourne Stadium.

Mandhana started off in a manner starkly different to Raj's. She stepped out to Gardner off the second ball of her innings, and followed it up with a late glide past the wicketkeeper for a second four in three balls in the nine-run over. By the end of the Powerplay, Mandhana had tonked six fours and a six for her 20-ball 33 to help steer India to 47 for no loss, with Raj on 13 off 16.

Mandhana brought up her half-century off 30 balls, even as Raj's bid to break the shackles led Healy breaking her stumps for 27-ball 18 in the tenth over. Soon after, debutant and left-arm spiner Sophie Molineux nearly had Mandhana chop on on the fourth ball off her second over, but the inside edge would only trickle to short fine leg. However, five balls later, she sent Mandhana back for a 41-ball 67 with a catch at mid-on off Gardner.

Her dismissal in the 14th over triggered a familiar Indian middle-order wobble and helped Perry snipe out Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur within the first three balls off the next over.

India's labour at 100 for 4 would have soon resulted in an even worse capitulation, had it not been the ingenious striking of allrounder Anuja Patil. During her 21-ball 35, Patil hooked and swept Perry to hammer 14 runs off the 18th over that spoiled Perry's figures to 4-0-31-2.

Patil added 14 more off her next four balls, before a back-of-the-hand full ball on middle from Delissa Kimmince had Molineux pick out Patil at deep midwicket. Veda Krishnamurthy then struck a four and a six in the last over to hoist the hosts to 152 for 5.

During Australia's chase, it took Jhulan Goswami all of five deliveries to make an impact upon her return to the squad from a heel injury after she missed the ODI series. After getting hit for two fours, a seam-up back-of-a length inswinger took the top of Alyssa Healy's middle stump.

Goswami snared Australia with a similar template in her next over. Gardner flayed Goswami through the point region for two back-to-back fours but a missed pull on the next ball cost her the middle stump and ended her eight-ball 15 cameo.

Mooney and Elyse Villani subsequently took Australia to 57 for 2 after six overs, after suffering two scares courtesy Patil. Introduced as the first-change bowler, Patil collected a Mooney drive and darted it straight back through the batsman's legs into the stumps. The replays, however, showed Mooney's back toe back just in time.

Mooney then struck three fours in the next over off Shikha Pandey during her 32-ball 45 and anchored the 79-run third-wicket stand with Villani. The duo, however, fell in consecutive overs, as Mooney holed out to Pandey, handing Goswami her third while Villani offered a return catch to Poonam Yadav in the 14th over.

With 41 needed from as many balls, Lanning walked in at No. 5, and hammered four fours and a six. Her 44-run unbeaten stand with Rachael Haynes lent a degree of eventuality to India's chase with a flurry of fours.

The most incisive one came off Rodrigues, as Lanning bisected a near-non-existent gap between point and cover point. Equally authoritative was her lofted drive off Poonam that brought up Australia's 150th run, before she hit the winning runs off Rumeli Dhar, in the penultimate over, en route to her 35 off 25 balls.