Australia’s all-conquering women’s team finally lost an international but it took a dazzling super over by India’s big hitters to consign them to a first defeat in 2022.
Their second T20 international in Mumbai on Sunday went to the extra over after a thrilling tie which featured India’s Devika Vaidya hitting a four off the final ball of the regulation 20 overs to level the scores.
Taking advantage of their great escape, India’s power players Richa Ghosh and player of the match Smriti Mandhana then both smashed sixes off debutant Heather Graham in a super over that was clattered for 20 runs.
In response, Australia’s batters, headed by captain Alyssa Healy’s 15 off five balls, fell four runs short after mustering 16 in total.
After 21 victories over a triumphant year, it was an agonising first defeat for the new Aussie captain, whose world champions had looked set to win again after another masterful century stand between their “M&M” batters – Beth Mooney and Tahlia McGrath.
Put in to bat, the visitors amassed a formidable 187 for one with Mooney (82no) and McGrath (70no), who had guided them to a nine-wicket win in the first match of the series with an unbroken stand of 100, this time putting on an unbeaten 158 for the second wicket, an Australian record for any wicket in a T20 international.
It looked too high a mountain for the Indian batters but, taking advantage of the lightning-fast outfield and short boundaries, opener Mandhana crashed 79 off 49 balls before Ghosh muscled three late sixes to keep them in the hunt.
Needing 14 to win off the last over, Vaidya then stepped up as the home side’s hero, thick-edging the second ball for four and slicing the last ball from Megan Schutt over backward point to earn the boundary that levelled the scores at 187 and sent the packed crowd in the DY Patil Stadium into ecstatic celebration mode.
They became even more animated when Graham got whacked over long-on for six by Ghosh from the first ball of the super over. Even though she departed next ball, Mandhana took over to hit four, six and three off the last three balls.
It was hard on newcomer Graham, who had earlier been Australia’s best performer with the ball, taking three for 22 off her four overs as India went for broke – but a target of 21 was too much for the Aussies once Healy’s partner Ashleigh Gardner was caught in the deep off Reuka Singh first ball and McGrath could only muster a single.
Healy hit the last ball for six but it was too little, too late in what she accepted had been a fantastic spectacle. “I mean, what a game of cricket that was and what a showcase of fearless cricket that is over here in India and for thousands of people to be able to witness this is pretty special,” said Healy.
“I thought we did well to be in that game. India were all over us right throughout that chase. The fact that we hung in there, took it to super over, we can be pretty proud of that.”