A huge upset looked to be on the cards when Renuka dismantled Australia’s famed top order of Alysaa Healy (0), Beth Mooney (10), skipper Meg Lanning (8) and Tahilia McGrath (14) in quick succession, leaving them tottering at 34/4 in the fifth over.
However, bouncing back from the early setbacks in tremendous fashion, the seven-time ODI and current T20 world champions then showed why they are the true, unbeatable ‘superpower’ of women’s cricket. Slamming a match-winning half-century, Ashleigh Gardner (52 not out, 35b, 9×4), Grace Harris (37, 20b, 5×4, 2×6) and No. 9 Alana King (18 not out, 16b, 3×4) displayed the might of Australia’s batting depth, as the gold-medal favourites cantered to the target with an over to spare.
Gardner and King added 47 in just 29 balls for their unbeaten eighth-wicket partnership, with the latter finishing off the chase by smashing off-spinner Deepti Sharma for a four to ‘cow corner,’ which is known as ‘King’s corner’ in Australia’s because of her success in hitting the ball in that area in the Women’s Big Bash League. King’s solid batting shows that Australia clearly don’t have a tail!
It was, however, Harris’ free-flowing, stroke-filled, counter-attacking innings which brought life back in the Oz chase, which looked in doldrums till the No. 7 arrived. Harris’ aggression took the pressure off Gardner as the pair added 51 off 34 balls for the sixth wicket to bring the Aussies roaring back into the game. Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur gave India a sniff when she took a superb catch, running backwards at mid-off to end Harris’ fireworks, but Gardner and King finished off the job for the Aussies.
It’s difficult to see someone stop Australia from winning the women’s cricket competition at this Commonwealth Games, but this was India’s best chance to pull off a stunner. Sadly, they just couldn’t close out the game. India now must quickly pick themselves up from this heartbreak as they take on Pakistan on Sunday in what is a do-or-die, high-pressure encounter for them, considering that Barbados are the other team in Group ‘B’.
India will still take heart from Renuka’s sizzling show on Friday. Reaping the rewards of sticking to a good line outside off, the 26-year-old speedster from Himachal gave India the perfect start when she had Healy for a duck, edging to Deepti Sharma at first slip of just the second ball of the innings. Lanning cut her to point, while Mooney chopped her delivery on to her stumps while trying to cut her. She then cleaned up the stumps of the dangerous McGrath with a ‘Jaffa’ as the ball swung in beautifully after pitching, finding the gate between the batter and her bat.
Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (52; 34b, 8×4, 1×6) came up with a good knock but India finished 10-15 runs below par. Scores: Australia Women 157/7 (Gardner 52*, Renuka 4-18) beat India Women 154/8 (Harmanpreet 52, Shafali 48, Jonassen 4-22) by three wickets.