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Australia 142 for 5 (Healy 46, Lanning 31, Haynes 25*) beat West Indies 71 (Taylor 16, Perry 2-2, Gardner 2-15, Kimmince 2-17) by 71 runs
Meg Lanning’s side is on a mission to ensure Australia’s 2018 isn’t remembered just for ‘Elite Honesty’ or the Newlands ball tampering fiasco. They vaulted into their fifth final, giving themselves a shot at a fourth title with a performance of a side with a demonstrated history of rising up at crunch moments. West Indies’ hopes of a home final to do an encore of Kolkata 2016 went up in flames less than halfway through their chase of 143 on a sluggish surface where pace-off-the-ball was the most important mantra.
Stafanie Taylor’s 16 was the highest score in a sorry batting performance, with the hosts crumbling on the face of sustained pressure exerted with the new ball by Ellyse Perry, who now sits on 99 T20I wickets. Her double-wicket burst in the two overs she bowled pretty much sealed the game even before the Powerplays were finished.
Deandra Dottin was done in by Perry’s sharp inducker that had her chop on to flatten the leg stump, while the second strike of Shemaine Campbelle, who pulled a short delivery, straight to Sophie Molineux at square leg in the fifth over left West Indies trembling at 25 for 3. After that, it all went downhill rather quickly; not even the boisterous home crowd that had filled up the stands in anticipation of a repeat of 2016 could cheer up West Indies, who may have paid the price for misreading the surface and bowling first.
That Australia were able to take advantage of this debatable tactical call was down to Alyssa Healy’s brilliance again. Having missed the final group game against India after a concussion scare, she slotted back in at the top of the order and offset any threat West Indies may have posed with her typically robust approach upfront.
Her 38-ball 46 gave Australia not just the legs for a big total, but also exhibited a lesson for the other batsmen to emulate. This batting show towered over the rest on the night, and she walked away with her fourth Player of the Match award in the tournament.
She was superbly complemented by Lanning, a fierce ball-striker herself, with a slightly contrasting approach, but one that worked nonetheless. Where Healy was gung-ho and fearless, Lanning was calculative and industrious, the focus clearly on strike-rotation. Both batters made a conscious effort to score runs off the seam bowlers, perhaps knowing well targeting spin later could prove challenging on the face of square turn.
West Indies conceded just four boundaries in the first 10 overs, and even manufactured two opportunities off Lanning, who first survived a close stumping chance followed by a run-out – only to be saved by an inch – in the ninth over. Healy’s back-to-back boundaries off legspinner Afy Fletcher in the 12th over marked Australia’s change in intent as they seamlessly switched to attack mode.
This tactic didn’t backfire even though they lost a couple of wickets, and it was largely down to Taylor’s miscalculation. Where spin was key, she persisted with her seamers for a little extra and paid the price. Deandra Dottin, who was seen hobbling, sent down two costly overs that went for 27. This included a 17-run penultimate over, where Rachel Haynes picked her for four boundaries, to wholeheartedly swing momentum in Australia’s favour.
West Indies needed to get themselves ahead of the asking rate in the Powerplay to have any chance, but that was nipped in the bud very early by Healy, who wasn’t done just yet. Hayley Matthews wandered outside the crease in trying to defend a ball in the second over only to see Healy pick the ball and break the bails to catch her well short.
Five balls later, Perry sent Dottin back to trigger the procession. On a surface where the spinners thrived, Perry delivered two pressure-inducing overs and broke the back with two big strikes. It was all down to Taylor from there on to pull off a coup with a lower order that has been far too inconsistent for their liking all tournament. This was a task too steep against a determined side keen to shake-off a minor blip.