Australia v WI, Women’s World T20, semi-finals, Mirpur
Report by: Devashish Fuloria
Australia Women survived a Deandra Dottin-led late charge from West Indies Women to remain in contention for a hat-trick of World T20 titles with a tight win in the first semi-final in Mirpur. Dottin, in the company of Stacy-Ann King, kept West Indies interested in the chase of 141 with a 78-run stand that came in 8.4 overs, but her dismissal in the penultimate over continued her team’s trend of sliding against Australia in a World Cup knockout match. West Indies had been stung by Australia in the final of the ODI World Cup last year and in the semi-final of the World T20 in Sri Lanka before that.
After the openers had provided West Indies with a solid platform, much depended on how Dottin, West Indies’ second-best batsman in the tournament behind Stafanie Taylor, would respond to an increasing required rate which had climbed to 9.3 at the end of 10 overs. Dottin, though, opted for a careful approach rather than an all-out attack as her run-scoring load for lessened by an aggressive King at the other end. However, she didn’t let any loose delivery go unpunished – full-tosses were swatted away and shorter ones were pulled hard. She brought up the half-century of the partnership with a muscular hoick over long-on bringing down the equation to 43 off 28 balls. But with 20 needed off 11, she smashed a low full-toss from Sarah Coyte straight into the hands of deep midwicket, effectively ending West Indies’ chances.
West Indies’ highest total to win a T20I was 140 and Australia had much to thank Alyssa Healy – who normally opens the innings but batted at No. 7 – for pushing the target beyond that number. Australia experimented with Jess Jonassen as opener for the first time in her 22-match career but her surprise promotion brought some glaring communication errors between the openers. Jonassen was lucky to not be run-out on the first ball she faced, and then survived another couple of poor calls and a dropped chance at mid-off, before being finally run-out for 5, in a partnership of 32.
The side-effect of that faulty experiment however worked in Australia’s favour. Healy, pushed down the order, brought the energy back after West Indies had struck to remove three middle-order wickets within the space of 14 runs. Her first stroke, a late cut off Anisa Mohammed to the third-man boundary, was polar opposite of a switch-hit she attempted twice: the first time, she failed to make a contact but the ball ran away for four byes while the second time, Taylor, spotting the intentions early, didn’t release the ball at all. Switch-hits aside, Healy managed to ping the boundary four times in an unbeaten 21-ball 30 to lift Australia to 140, Australia’s lowest total batting first in this tournament.
The foundation of the total was laid at the top end by opener Elyse Villani’s 35 and Meg Lanning, who continued her good form in the tournament. Villani opened her account with an emphatic front-foot pull in the first over bowled by Tremaine Smartt and was comfortable using either the sweep-shot or the lofted drive over mid-off once West Indies switched to spin from the second over onwards. One of those aerial drives ended up in the lap of long-off in Anisa’s second over.
Lanning too was happy to use her feet to the spinners – an extra cover drive that landed just short of the boundary being her best shot – while her cuts and pulls brought her boundaries off seamer Shakera Selman. But her effortless innings was cut short when she chopped on a length delivery from Smartt. Australia’s mini-crisis at the fall of Jess Cameron to Anisa soon after was averted though as Healy put up 48 in 28 balls with Alex Blackwell.
The West Indies openers couldn’t have asked for anything better than pace on a slow wicket. Unlike West Indies, Australia’s attack was replete with seamers and they provided the necessary fuel for the deflections to run to the boundary easily – the first three boundaries from Taylor and Kycia Knight came in the third-man region. The next two boundaries – flicks through square leg – ensured the scoreboard kept ticking despite the openers having to take any undue risks.
Australia’s lucky break came in the eighth over when Taylor, trying to sneak an extra run off a misfield at cover, was found short by a flat throw from Sarah Coyte. The sudden dip in scoring brought the second wicket soon as Knight skipped out of the crease to a flighted delivery from Erin Osborne only to miss it and lose her middle stump. The bowlers ran out of ideas during the third-wicket stand between Dottin and King, but once the partnership was broken, they quickly closed all escape routes.