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Once again, Australia had a little too much skill and nous when it mattered in the World T20 semi-final, from the batting of Alyssa Healy, captaincy of Meg Lanning and spin of Erin Osborne
Alan Gardner in Mirpur
April 3, 2014
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It takes a lot to get past Australia. It always does. West Indies appeared to have twice given themselves a handle on this semi-final, with ball and then bat, only for the green-and-gold tractor beam to latch on again. Erin Osborne was the Player of the Match but Meg Lanning's captaincy and Alyssa Healy's sprightly intervention were just as decisive.
Osborne sheepishly accepted the plaudits, after bowling her best spell of the tournament and taking the catch to dismiss Deandra Dottin, the batsman who West Indies hoped would muscle the holders out. Just as Dottin was threatening to unleash, Osborne returned in the 15th over to put the brakes on sharper than a CNG thundering into a traffic jam. She held her nerve in the 18th, after Stacy-Ann King hit her third ball for six - the over only cost nine - and then again when Dottin picked her out on the boundary in the following over.
The wicket was also a fillip for Lanning and Sarah Coyte, whose pace had helped West Indies to four boundaries from her previous three overs. When it mattered, she bowled full and straight and Dottin could not connect with the swingeing blow required to clear the boundary.
Australia's phalanx of quicks, the pressure front of their attack, all went at seven an over or more, a rate that would have seen West Indies home. Lanning reeled off the changes, attempting to destabilise the partnership between Dottin and King and it was the suffocating accuracy of Osborne and Jess Jonassen that made a crucial difference.
"Personally I didn't feel the extra pressure, throughout the tournament I think Jess and the quicks have been carrying me, so it was probably my turn to step up and do the job," Osborne said. "That's T20 cricket, you'll have some players go the distance and others do really well so I think as a whole we were quite happy with how we bowled today."
Having spent the group stage up in Sylhet, where pace and swing - as well as the distracting fluttering of moths - played a bigger factor, Osborne and Jonassen will have the chance to do more than just contain, although that is their primary role in this Australia side. Lisa Sthalekar, the former Australia offspinning allrounder with more than 200 wickets to her name, has been with the team in Bangladesh as a coaching assistant and Osborne credited her for an improved performance after being the team's most expensive bowler.
"I'm very grateful to have her here," Osborne said. "For me it's been wonderful, I've been having my own battles leading up to this match and to have her and just go through everything, it's definitely helped me out today and I finally felt I was able to contribute to this team the way I should have been doing.
"I think Sylhet was a little bit quicker pitch, the ground was just as fast, a little bit bumpy, we had some challenges with all the moths there as well, which made it quite interesting dealing with those every night. The pitch out here is a little bit slower and more spin friendly, so that was a bit of a challenge but I thought our batters did well to adapt to the conditions. The dimensions of this ground are quite big, whereas if Dottin hit that in Sylhet it would have sailed over my head. So fortunate for us it's a bigger boundary."
The women's game had none of the needle that crept into the men's clash between West Indies and Australia - Merissa Aguilera was present at Osborne's press conference to laugh along with a shared story about misplaced sledging - but Healy's aggression was noticeable during a hard-running and ultimately decisive 30 off 21 balls after Australia were an inauspicious 92 for 5 with less than five overs remaining.
Healy had been opening for Australia, a problem position for them, but here dropped to No. 7 and provided a blast of southern sunshine at the back of the innings. Jonassen was promoted to open for the first time in her career - an experiment with limited success - and Healy's verve helped carry Australia into their third successive World T20 final.
"That innings was crucial," Osborne said. "We were struggling, going only at a run a ball and at that stage it looked like we were only going to post 130, if we were lucky. But she came in and played the way we know she can, she's done it so often for us at New South Wales and for Australia at the top of the order. I think it was actually useful having her bat a bit lower for us today and come in and play that explosive innings, it was exactly what we needed. We all knew she had it in her and could achieve that and I'm so pleased for her."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
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