Bulow clinches final's berth for Australia
Australia 231 for 6 (Bulow 85) beat India 230 for 8 (Jain 75, Kala 54) by 4 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A career-best 85 from opener Melissa Bulow set the platform before a composed seventh-wicket partnership helped Australia clinch a last-ball thriller against India in what was a virtual semi-final at Chepauk. Set 231, Australia needed more than six an over in the last five overs, with only the tail to come, but some poor Indian fielding allowed them to get home without losing any more wickets.
Like they've done throughout the tournament, India fumbled in the field and couldn't convert run-out chances as the pressure mounted in the last 10 overs. Cathryn Fitzpatrick and Jodie Purves took advantage of India's clumsiness and added a nerveless 47 in the last 43 balls to ensure Australia's victory. This was after India had reached a competitive total thanks to half-centuries from Karuna Jain and Hemlata Kala.
It was Bulow's 91-ball 85 that set up Australia's successful chase. Her half-century partnerships with Leah Poulton and Karen Rolton allowed Australia to whittle away 100 runs from the target. Bulow routinely cut the opening bowlers, Rumeli Dhar and Jhulan Goswami to the point boundary and managed boundaries behind the wicket as well. She took Amita Sharma out of the attack, smashing 12 off her opening over. Sharma had a forgettable match with the ball - returning to concede seven in her next over and not making much of an impact at the death.
But India fought back through a rare show of athleticism on the field, with Mithali Raj dismissing Poulton, the opener, with an inspiring lunge. Poulton had driven hard but Raj, the Indian captain, dived to her left and took a catch off the ground, breaking the first-wicket partnership. Rolton was the next to go, driving straight to Kala in the covers and then soon after Lisa Sthalekar reverse swept a Nooshin Al Khadeer offbreak to the wicketkeeper.
Khadeer also got the wicket of Sarah Edwards as she tried to go for the runs once Bulow had been dismissed. Purves joined Fitzpatrick at the crease at the fall of the sixth wicket and the duo calmed the nerves with a sensible stand. Fitzpatrick scored the occasional boundary to keep the run-rate at six an over and the two were allowed to rotate the strike thanks to India's lethargy on the field.
India were slightly slow to get off the mark with the bat as well. They'd slumped to 49 for 2 at the 15-over mark. The Australian bowlers restricted India's scoring in the early half of the innings and had dismissed the in-form Jaya Sharma and Raj. However, Jain, the opener, Kala, the middle-order batsman, made considerable amends with half-centuries. The pair clung on even as Kirsten Pike and Emma Sampson got them to edge and at times be beaten by their medium-pace deliveries. Jain got off the mark with a four over midwicket off Fitzpatrick and repeated the shot through her innings, lucky to see it fall between fielders each time.
Anjum Chopra, who returned to the side after being dropped for the two previous matches, also chipped in with an energetic 41. She too had some luck in the first part of her innings as edges off her bat beat the slips to reach the boundary. The two added 68 for the third wicket before Jain was trapped leg before by Sthalekar. Dhar was then bowled off the first ball she faced and when Kala joined Chopra at the crease, India were 118 for 4.
Kala punished the spinners, Sthalekar and Nitschke, and even the otherwise economical Sampson and pushed the total towards 200. Some last-over hitting by Khadeer finally took India to their second-highest total of the tournament. In the end it proved a little too short and India can now only hope for a third place finish in the Quadrangular tournament. Australia will now play New Zealand in the final while India will take on England for a third place play-off on March 5.