Not even a blistering spell from New Zealand seamer Lea Tahuhu could stop the Australian women’s cricket team from progressing to the Commonwealth Games gold medal match in Birmingham.
Meg Lanning’s side claimed a five-wicket victory at Edgbaston on Sunday morning AEST, chasing down the 145-run target with three balls to spare.
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However, it was anything but smooth sailing for the undefeated Aussies in the must-win semi-final, with Tahuhu removing wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy and captain Lanning in the Powerplay to leave the reigning world champions in a spot of bother at 2/28 in the fifth over.
But opening batter Beth Mooney (36 off 29) and all-rounder Tahlia McGrath (34 off 23) combined for a crucial 56-run partnership for the third wicket to steady the ship before Ash Gardner guided the Aussies safely home with an unbeaten 19 at the death.
Tahuhu, who was a late addition to the New Zealand squad due to an injury to Jess Kerr, finished with superb figures of 3/20 off four overs, her second-best bowling performance in T20 internationals.
The New Zealanders shot themselves in the foot with some sloppy fielding, dropping several chances during the tense run chase – Mooney, McGrath and Lanning were all gifted extra lives at the crease through missed catches.
But regardless, the Kiwis were outclassed in all facets of the game; they will face Commonwealth Games hosts England in the bronze medal match.
“It is nice to be tested and we knew coming into the game, and the round games here, we were going to be tested in different moments – certainly we were tonight,” Mooney told reporters after the semi-final.
“The beauty of our team and where we’re at at the moment is there’s so much belief within that dressing room that we can always get the job done no matter what it looks like and we can sometimes accept it can look pretty ugly.
“But if we can scrap our way to a win, that’s the result we’re after.”
Earlier, Australian quick Megan Schutt claimed three wickets, including the prized wicket of veteran batter Suzie Bates for a golden duck in the opening over of the match, to help restrict New Zealand to 7/144, with McGrath taking two scalps with her medium pace.
White Ferns skipper Sophie Devine top-scored with 53 (48), while young all-rounder Amelia Kerr contributed 40 (36).
New Zealand debutant Georgia Plimmer, an 18-year-old from Wellington, scored 17 before Schutt knocked her over in the sixth over.
The White Ferns added 22 runs in the final three overs, but their total seemed slightly below par.
“I think we just generally really survive in the clutch moments,” Schutt told reporters after the triumph.
“We’ve had so many close games and we focus a lot on being able to compose ourselves in those close moments, and a lot of us have played a lot of cricket together.
“It’s just kind of having faith in our talent as well as backing our skillset in the moment.”
Australia will face India in the gold medal match on Monday morning, with the first ball scheduled for 2am AEST.
There will be a feeling of deja vu among the Aussies, who also clashed with India in the unforgettable 2020 T20 World Cup final at the MCG.