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Sneaky battles, amazing performances, weird results: how the Australia-India rivalry took shape

What does the next installment of this head-to-head have in store?

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Australia and India have been involved in some absorbing battles  •  AFP

Australia and India have been involved in some absorbing battles  •  AFP

It may not have the standing of the World Cups or the history of the Ashes, but Australia-India in the women's game is writing itself a fascinating storyline, and this upcoming series will be the first multi-format points-based contest between the teams.
"We've sort of had these sneaky little battles over the last five, six years that I can remember," Alyssa Healy said ahead of the series which starts in Mackay next week. "There's been some amazing performances in all games played and lots of weird results, so it's no surprise to me that we've got this little bubbling of competitiveness and a little bit of a rivalry going. It's sort of unspoken but it's definitely there we know that they like to pump themselves up when they're playing Australia and they've proven that they come out and perform."
Here's a look back over the last four years of a contest that is often full of intrigue.

Kaur's best

The Australia players regularly reference it as the moment everything changed. Head coach Matthew Mott calls it a 'crucible moment'. Whatever phrase is used, Harmanpreet Kaur's dazzling 171 not out at the 2017 World Cup semi-final set in motion a chance of events that has played a significant part in where Australia now are. On the day, Australia, defending champions at the time, had no answers to Kaur's magnificent 115-ball innings that included 20 boundaries and seven sixes. When they were 21 for 3 in reply, it was game over despite the best efforts of Alex Blackwell and Elyse Villani. "It's almost the great thing that happened, from the perspective of look at our team since then. We've changed the way that we've approached the game," Healy said this week reflecting on the game.
In the end, this result was not hugely significant in the outcome of the 2018 T20 World Cup - Australia would go on to triumph handsomely in the final against England - but India did cause their one misstep of the competition. In the final group match, the spinners dismantled Australia's batting, which was missing the concussed Healy, for 119 after Smriti Mandhana had dominated with the bat to make 83 off 55 balls.
Fifteen months later, the sides met again in T20 as they prepared for the 2020 World Cup with a triangular series also involving England. The group matches were shared one-a-piece as Australia chased down a small total in a match dominated by Ellyse Perry (4 for 13 and 49) before India's top order, led by Shafali Verma's 28-ball 49 which overshadowed Ash Gardner's 93, chased down 174 to again raise a few questions about Australia's attack under pressure. In the final, the home side produced a solid all-round display to take victory, Beth Mooney starring with the bat before Jess Jonassen snaffled 5 for 12.
Then it was on to the real thing. The opening game of the 2020 T20 World Cup in Sydney was a hugely anticipated contest and it certainly delivered. Verma cut loose early, Australia pulled it back, Deepti Sharma gave India something to defend. In reply, Australia lost two early wickets but Healy took charge until the game changed when she was removed by Poonam Yadav. In an instant, the legspinner was all over the middle order, removing Rachael Haynes and Perry with consecutive wrong 'uns. How would Australia respond?
The answer came over the course of the next two weeks and concluded amid heady scenes at the MCG in front of more than 86,000 people. Healy ripped into India's bowling inside the powerplay, effectively deciding the final in those six overs and what became an opening stand of 115 with Mooney. When Verma fell in the opening over the chase, the second innings became a celebration for Australia as Lanning lifted the trophy. Now it's time for the next installment.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo