SEMI-FINAL MATCH REPORT: India v Australia
In the 36th over of India’s innings today, Alyssa Healy threw in the ball, hard. So hard that she broke the electrical circuit in the stumps.
It wasn't the only thing broken today.
By the end of the 42nd over - a foreshortened game, today, due to rain - India had finally broken the Australian bowling attack.
What’s more, they broke it so hard that - unlike the stump, which could be replaced (almost) immediately - it crumbled into nothing and saw Australia flying home, having failed to make the final of a global tournament for the first time since 2009.
I say India. Really, though, today belongs to one player: Harmanpreet Kaur.
She had walked out to bat in the 10th over, with India 35-2 - Smriti Mandhana continuing her run of low scores (caught at cover for 6); swiftly followed by Punam Raut holing out to deep midwicket. There was initially little sign of the onslaught to come. The first five balls she faced went: dot, 1, dot, dot, 1. The fifth, though, was creamed through cover for four.
She never looked back.
Meg Lanning initially brought Megan Schutt back into the attack - a thought, perhaps, that Harmanpreet is stronger against spin. Schutt was dispatched for two boundaries. In the next over Schutt bowled, Harmanpreet paddled it over her left shoulder for another four - her placement impeccable.
The spinners came on. Kristen Beams made the mistake of showing weakness: a horrible no ball which looped up into the air and landed about 5 metres to the left of Healy behind the stumps. Harmanpreet pounced. The free hit was sent flying over midwicket for six. The last ball of the over went through square leg for four, to bring up her half-century.
For the Australian bowlers, it simply got worse. A ball of Jess Jonassen's that should have been a wide was seized upon by Harmanpreet and scooped for four. That took her into the 90s.
Her 100, when it came, was an odd moment. She was in full-on tigress mode now. She wanted the second run. In doing so she almost sacrificed her partner, Deepti Sharma - the umpire review said she was not out, but Harmanpreet was furious nonetheless.
The celebrations would come later.
Harmanpreet continued to relentlessly, remorselessly attack the Australian bowlers. She hit yet another six to bring up her century partnership with Sharma: 77 of those runs were scored by her. She went from 100 to 150 in just 17 balls.
Lanning simply didn’t know where to turn. She even tried to use Elyse Villani as a death bowler again. That particular experiment cost 19 runs.
Harmanpreet finished on 171 not out. The (joint) fifth highest innings ever in women’s ODI cricket. Goodness knows what might have happened had she been given the full 50.
Charlotte Edwards described it as “the best innings I have ever seen”. Charlotte Edwards has seen a lot of cricket.
Usually Australia bat deep enough to cover a multitude of sins with their batting. Not today. Meg Lanning went for an 8-ball duck. Australia needed to score at 6.7 an over, and couldn’t even hit the ball for four until 5 overs had passed. Villani came, saw, tried to conquer, but departed for 75. Perry mustered 38 but took 56 balls to get there.
Alex Blackwell is pure class - her 90 off 56 balls proved that - but she could not quite rewrite today’s script singlehandedly. When she was bowled by Deepti Sharma in the 41st over, the dream was over for Australia.
Perhaps they should have seen it coming.
After all, Australia have conceded over 200 runs against every single team they have played in this tournament, barring Pakistan. West Indies were bowled out for 48 by South Africa: against the Aussies they made 204. Chamari Atapattu took the Australian attack to pieces; only some Meg Lanning magic saved them.
They have conceded 90 wides across the tournament - including 23 against England. Elyse Villani has, somehow, become a go-to death bowler. Even Villani herself doesn’t think she is a death bowler.
And I stand by what I wrote here. Ellyse Perry is tired. She isn’t the kind of player that gets out in such a soft way - a totally half-hearted stroke that ends up in the gloves of the keeper - when she’s feeling good.
“We feel like across our whole squad we’ve got good variety,” Lanning said, pre-tournament. “Our pace bowlers, since we’ve come over here to the UK, have been bowling really well and providing good options for us.”
Options? Like Sarah Aley, and Belinda Vakarewa, who have played 2 games this tournament between them?
Against other teams Australia have papered over these cracks. They were not permitted that luxury today. Harmanpreet Kaur did not just expose the cracks. She dug into them, making them cavernous. Before today, a World Cup final without Australia in it seemed unthinkable. But the giant has been slain.
And Harmanpreet Kaur is the slayer.