An awesome display of hitting by Ash Gardner and Grace Harris secured Australia a 4-1 series win in the T20 international series in India. The duo smashed 129 in 10.2 overs in an unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership in Mumbai, providing the platform for an impressive 54-run win.
Their exploits even overshadowed a hat-trick by Heather Graham, though that was also because six overs were bowled between second and third dismissals. Australia, put into bat, racked up 196-4 off their 20 overs. In reply India could only muster 142, being all out off the final ball.
“I loved watching Ash and Grace today. We pride ourselves on fearless cricket, like to take the game on and stay ahead,” said Australia’s stand-in captain Tahlia McGrath.
As in the fourth match Gardner was the all-round star also taking 2-20 and two catches.
“I think it’s easy batting with someone like Grace, who has the power game to back up the chat,” said Gardner, adding: “I’m just enjoying my cricket more than anything else, reaping the benefits on the field.”
Gardner cracked 66 off 32 balls with 11 fours and a six while Harris bludgeoned 64 off 35 with six fours and fours sixes, her highest T20i score.
Their onslaught put the game beyond an Indian team who lost world ranked No 3 batter Smriti Mandhana for four in the first over after which wickets tumbled regularly. Harleen Deol (24 off 16 balls) got going but she was run out by McGrath.
Belated resistance came from Deepti Sharma, who snacked 53 off 34 balls before being last out, fittingly caught on the ropes by Gardner off Graham.
That gave Graham remarkable figures of four wickets for eight runs off two overs including a hat-trick taken off the last two balls of the 12th over and the first of the 19th.
“Not sure how that [hat-trick] happened,” she admitted. “I really didn’t realise it was the hat-trick ball.”
Australian captain Alyssa Healy had strained her calf while batting in the fourth match so McGrath took the reins, Beth Mooney the gloves, and Phoebe Litchfield stepped in as opener. Australia also made a change in their bowling attack with Kim Garth replacing Megan Schutt.
Litchfield, playing in her second international but making her batting debut, began well, straight-driving her second ball to the boundary. She then gained a fortunate six as an attempted run-out as she ran two produced four overthrows.
However, off her ninth ball she was stumped for 11 as she sought to attack Sharma. That left Australia 17-2 midway through the third over as Mooney was already back in the hutch after chopping on fourth ball for two.
By the end of the fifth over, with Australia 24-2, McGrath knew it was time to lead by example. Hitting sixes over extra cover and long-on the No 1 women’s T20 batter took 17 off the sixth over, plus a wide.
However, with McGrath stumped for a run-a-ball 26 and the in-form Ellyse Perry caught at long-on for 18 off 14 Australia reached the mid-point at 72-4.
Gardner and Harris steadied matters, then cut loose with Gardner hitting four successive fours and Harris three sixes in seven balls. They kept that pace up hitting at least two boundaries off each of the last eight overs as India wilted to the extent two more sets of four overthrows were conceded. Between them they had crushed India’s spirit and set Australia on course for victory.