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The final ball that wasn't: the story of a chaotically memorable finish

Agony and ecstasy were experienced, and then exchanged, as Australia scripted a fab come-from-behind win

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
Beth Mooney and Nicola Carey embrace after an extraordinary finish  •  Albert Perez/Getty Images

Beth Mooney and Nicola Carey embrace after an extraordinary finish  •  Albert Perez/Getty Images

It's supposed to be the final ball of the match.
A world-record 26th straight ODI win is on the line for Australia. The opportunity to extend their lead to four points over India in the multi-format series beckons. Three runs off the delivery and they would be ticking both boxes.
India, for their part, are hoping their score of 274 is one run too many for Australia. One run better than the tally of an opposition that has yet again exposed their shortcomings as a fielding unit, the limitations of their largely untested attack under lights in dewy conditions and, most tellingly, laid bare the difference a well-run domestic set-up can make to a team's approach to tight finishes.
It's supposed to be the final ball of the match. And India are convinced it is.
Nicola Carey swats a full toss straight to midwicket where Yastika Bhatia, playing only her second game for India, pouches it and is mobbed by her team-mates who come scurrying in from all over. The bowler, Jhulan Goswami, arms spread, roars and rushes in, clutching Bhatia in a delirious embrace. Pats on the back for the pair come thick and fast. As do high-fives, grins… and a look relief on many faces.
By now, Carey has crossed over to the non-striker's end. She wears a look of disbelief and trudges back towards her partner, Beth Mooney, on the other side of the pitch to where India have huddled.
"India win. The streak is over," a commentator says. The verdict, he thinks, is straightforward enough.
But, hang on. The on-field umpires, suddenly, seem… unsure. What is it?
Surely that appeared to be a clean catch by Bhatia. Surely Carey's swat off the full toss was fatal. But… there… a full toss. The devil starts to surface from that one detail.
Was the delivery waist-high or above upon contact with Carey's bat? Did she hang too deep in her crease against the dipping projectile? Or did the stride she had taken forward, after taking a step back, before connecting with the ball, change things? How tall is Carey anyway? How tall does Carey's natural batting stance make her look on television? Hang on. Why is she even playing this match? Had it not been for an elbow injury to Rachael Haynes, who struck 93 not out in Australia's win in the first ODI, would Carey have even been subjected to this agonising wait?
The on-field umpires, Eloise Sheridan and Claire Polosak (standing in for the injured Bruce Oxenford), had not called no-ball. But they've reviewed the ball. Over to the third umpire, Philip Gillespie.
It's supposed to be the final ball of the match. You know that by now. But try telling that to Carey or Goswami or Bhatia or the commentators. Or to the sizeable crowd that have turned up for the day-night fixture at Harrup Park and remained on the edge of their seat ever since Australia's vaunted line-up lost Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry for 0, 6, 2 in the powerplay.
Try telling that to Meghna Singh who, along with Goswami, did that to Australia's top order, with incisive opening spells of swing bowling. Or to Smriti Mandhana, whose 94-ball 86 underpinned India's 274.
It's supposed to be the final ball of the match. But there is no sense of finality here.
A seemingly endless loop of television replays is on. Then, at long last, Gillespie, arrives at a decision. He relays his call to Polosak, who nods her head and stretches her right hand out, parallel to the ground. No-ball. It is not the final ball of the match after all.
India cannot believe their luck. Bhatia buries her face in her hands. The camera catches a poker-faced Raj, setting the field, before cutting to Goswami, who, realising she'll have to re-bowl that delivery, walks up to Polosak to make polite enquires. She had already bowled a waist-high no-ball earlier in the over, but after Polosak explains that Goswami's second no-ball was "away from the body" and, therefore, not deemed dangerous, she is allowed to finish the over. Shaking her head, she eventually makes her way to the start of her run-up.
Agony has replaced ecstasy in the Indian dugout. Australia's non-playing personnel are up on their feet in their corner, rejoicing, albeit nervously. "It goes from a win [for India] to a run off the last ball [for Australia to tie]," a commentator says as Carey, on 37, and Mooney, on 125, confer with the umpires to confirm the specific requirements of the new final ball.
Mooney explained what that chat was about, after the game. "I've been talking with some people on the sideline," she said. "They said it was a clear no-ball. I wasn't sure [of how many were needed off the additional ball] because of everything that was happening but, essentially, we were trying to work out whether we got a run for the run that we took, who was on strike and things like that. So, obviously, it was a pretty tight call in the end."
Mandhana spoke of a similar sense of confusion. "We haven't really seen the ball yet as a team," she said. "We were on the field, so on the field it's very hard to judge if it's a waist-high no ball or it isn't. It's still too early for us to go and see and really be unhappy about it. Definitely we'll have a look at it but, those things... when they go in your favour you're really happy. But I wouldn't add to the controversy part about anything. I seriously haven't looked at the ball yet."
The women's game had its first-ever Super Over in ODIs only earlier this week. Now, the possibility of a second in quick succession isn't out of the question.
It's a free hit, so the batters can only be run out. Carey is back on strike and Mooney ready to sprint for her life. Her 125 runs may have constituted her best century in the format yet, but they still will not amount to much for her team if she and Carey do not ace this one last delivery.
And so the final ball of the night, finally, lands. Literally, this time. Fullish. Tailing in close to Carey's feet. She digs it out into the leg side and sets off. The fielder, Jemimah Rodrigues, substituting for Shafali Verma, gets around to the ball quickly, running in from cow corner, but isn't quick enough to keep the batters from crossing for the second.
The throw reaches Goswami at the non-striker's end and she breaks the stumps, but Mooney has long made her ground. Raising her left hand, punching the air, she signals the end to an extraordinary night.
Goswami's first over produced the ball of match, when she bowled Healy for a duck with a superb inswinger. Her final over on the night orchestrated what could remain etched in cricketing lore as one of the game's the most chaotic - and memorable - finishes ever.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha