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Schutt and Gardner script comebacks as Australia Women win gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2022

Australia completed the treble of world titles with Beth Mooney’s aggressive 61 and a stunning comeback with the ball at death, led by Megan Schutt (2-27) and Ash Gardner (3-16). On Sunday, they won the inaugural Commonwealth Games 2022 Gold by a narrow nine-run margin over India at Edgbaston (August 7).

India clawed their way back with the ball late in the game to limit Australia to 161/8 from their 20 overs. Harmanpreet Kaur (65) and Jemimah Rodrigues (33) then led the chase for the most part, but Australia struck in back-to-back overs to dismiss both set batters and precipitate a fatal collapse. They did so by re-establishing their global dominance and subjecting India to yet another runner-up finish.

Meg Lanning chose to bat first for Australia, who were unbeaten on their way to the summit clash, but the start was less than ideal. Renuka Thakur had the big fish Alyssa Healy trapped lbw in the third over, thanks to a reluctant last-second review. Lanning and Mooney, on the other hand, led a strong comeback with a 74-run partnership off just 47 deliveries.

Lanning got started with her typical cut for a boundary, albeit courtesy of a rare misfield on a day when India was otherwise on point with their fielding. The captain of Australia made up for the earlier omissions with a six over long-on and a four to the third man to end the powerplay on 43/1.

While India managed a couple of quiet overs with the introduction of spin, Mooney and Lanning ripped Pooja Vastrakar and Harmanpreet Kaur to shreds in their first overs, propelling Australia to 83/1 at the halfway point. Lanning was particularly aggressive, finishing her counterpart over with a hat-trick of fours, forcing Harmanpreet to withdraw from the attack for good.

But, just as Australia was about to shift gears, Radha Yadav’s sharp under-arm throw caught Lanning short of her crease while she was attempting to steal a quick single. Radha also had a hand in the next dismissal, pulling off an absolute screamer with a full-stretch forward dive at backward point and sending Tahlia McGrath on her way.

The twin strikes appeared to tip the balance back in India’s favor, but Ash Gardner had other ideas. Despite the wicket, the all-rounder fetched a couple of lucky boundaries through edges to make Deepti’s over an expensive 12-run over, and two overs later deposited Radha well over long-on ropes before being stumped on 25 trying to take on Rana. This resulted in a collapse of 5 for 36 in the final five overs, limiting Australia to a par score.

Mooney’s 36-ball fifty came in the same over, but the celebrations were cut short when a back-pedaling Deepti hit a one-handed screamer to end the opener’s 41-ball innings on 61. Mooney’s final boundary and Rachael Haynes’ first six came on either side of Rana’s crucial strike, helping Australia to 150/6. India, on the other hand, kept chipping away with their electric fielding. Meghna Singh took a sharp reflex catch in the deep to dismiss Alana King, and Smriti Mandhana’s direct hit at the non-end strikers caught Jess Jonassen short as India restricted Australia to 161/8.

India’s chase appeared to be veering off course early on, with both Mandhana and Shafali Verma losing wickets within the first half of the powerplay. Harmanpreet and Rodrigues settled in and broke the shackles by fetching three boundaries between them, bringing India’s powerplay score (42/2) within one run of their opponents.

The India captain was the aggressor, scooping a yorker-length ball from McGrath to the fence and ushering Jonassen into the attack with a wild swing over the long-on ropes. The pacer was punished further for bowling slot balls, which Harmanpreet duly dispatched en route to her 34-ball half-century, while Rodrigues played the ideal second fiddle throughout her run-a-ball 33. With Harmanpreet in her element, India appeared to be in command. She smashed Alana King’s first ball back into the attack straight down the ground for four and swatted away the last one flat over deep midwicket to take India past 100 in the 14th over.

A desperate Lanning threw the ball back to the experienced Schutt to break the near-century third-wicket stand, and the veteran turned the game on its head. Rodrigues hit the first ball over midwicket for four but was clean bowled the next ball while attempting the same. Gardner’s consecutive strikes in the next over proved to be the final nail in India’s coffin. Vastrakar holed out without making an impact, and Harmanpreet died attempting a calculated scoop as the ball deflected off her helmet, allowing an alert Healy to scoop it with a leaping forward dive.

With India’s equation shooting up to 41 required off the final four overs, Australia knew they had edged ahead. Despite another costly 13-run over from King, the reigning T20 champions tightened the screws even further with a string of run-out dismissals. Deepti’s valiant fours and desperate use of reviews of her and concussion sub-Yastika Bhatia only served to postpone the inevitable.