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1st Match, Group A, Birmingham, July 29, 2022, Commonwealth Games Women's Cricket Competition
(19/20 ov, T:155) 157/7

AUS Women won by 3 wickets (with 6 balls remaining)


Gardner 52* trumps Renuka's 4 for 18 as Australia come back from the brink

Harris and Gardner rescued Australia from the pits of 49 for 5

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Ashleigh Gardner stunned India with her fifty, Australia vs India, Commonwealth Games, Birmingham, July 29, 2022

Ashleigh Gardner's unbeaten half-century sealed Australia's stunning comeback win  •  Associated Press

Australia Women 157 for 7 (Gardner 52*, Harris 37, Renuka 4-18) beat India Women 154 for 8 (Harmanpreet 52, Shafali 48, Jonassen 4-22) by three wickets
Women's cricket got off to a spectacular start in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, with Australia giving India a reminder that you can never write them off, even in near-impossible situations. Chasing 155, Australia were reduced to 49 for 5 after an incisive burst of 4 for 18 from seamer Renuka Singh, but Ashleigh Gardner and Grace Harris pulled off an incredible rescue act to win with an over to spare.
A skyrocketing asking-rate that had Australia needing 89 off the last 10 overs eventually turned into a cruise. Harris, who was batting in a T20I for the first time since 2016, smashed 37 off 20 balls, while Gardner stayed unbeaten on 52 off 35 to give Australia a winning start in pursuit of their maiden gold medal.
India's spinners prove ineffective
Apart from Deepti Sharma, every other India spinner was extremely expensive. Left-armer Radha Yadav, in particular, struggled on a pitch that did not offer the kind of bite that she thrives on. When she pitched short, Harris targeted the square boundaries on both sides of the wicket, and when she went full, Harris stepped out and powered the ball straight down the ground. The other left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad also suffered, going for 24 runs in two overs. Thriving against spin, Harris and Gardner raised their 50-run partnership off 31 balls and put the pressure right back on India.
Australia just keep coming
India broke that damaging partnership off the last ball of the 13th over, when Harmanpreet Kaur ran sideways to catch Harris, leaving Australia with 55 to get off 42 balls with only four wickets in hand. The moment should have galvanised India; instead it spurred Australia on. The No. 8 Alana King demonstrated their batting depth, smacking three boundaries in her unbeaten 18 off 16 balls. When Gardner brought up her half-century, Australia were just three away from victory, and King clattered the winning boundary through midwicket off the final ball of the 19th over.
Renuka's dream spell
Renuka doesn't have much pace; she relies on accuracy, swing and subtle variations off the pitch. With her second ball, she had the formidable Alyssa Healy poking to slip. Renuka then had Meg Lanning caught at point for 8; the batter's indecision between playing a full-blooded cut or a gentle push proving to be her undoing. After Beth Mooney chopped on for 10 and Tahlia McGrath lost her leg stump to one that cut back in, Renuka had taken four wickets in her first 13 balls. At that stage, India were favourites to win, despite not scoring as much as they should have.
Smriti shines, briefly
India had made a promising start before their innings unravelled. Let off in the second over by Haynes, Smriti Mandhana stepped out of her crease repeatedly to negate any swing at Edgbaston. She drove through the covers, lofted the spinners, and pulled in front of square to race to 24 off 16 balls, but eventually nicked Darcie Brown to the wicketkeeper in the fourth over.
Lucky Shafali tees off
After a small role-reversal, in which she played second fiddle to Mandhana, Shafali Verma displayed her destructive powers by lofting Megan Schutt down the ground, and showed she has a delicate game too by glancing the legspin of King to the boundary. Australia let Shafali off three times - once when Healy broke the stumps with her empty right hand while the ball was in her left glove. The India opener went on to score 48 off 33 balls before she was out to a leg-side strangle against left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen, who finished with figures of 4 for 22.
Harmanpreet's leg-side range
Harmanpreet's love for the leg side is no secret, but that doesn't make it easy to stop her. Australia placed multiple fielders on the leg-side boundary, but Harmanpreet still found the gaps to top score for India with 52 off 34 balls. But her momentum was stalled by Jonassen cutting through the middle order at the other end, and India could only score 39 runs in the last five overs of their innings.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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