India have ended Australia’s chances of back-to-back World Cup titles with an upset semi-final victory in Derby as a scintillating knock from Harmanpreet Kaur helped her side through to Sunday’s final.
Australia simply had no answers as Kaur blasted an unbeaten 171 that well-and-truly took the game away from the title holders in the first innings.
India were in strife at 2-35 before Kaur played one of the greatest innings seen in World Cup history, thumping 20 boundaries and seven sixes to help her side to 4-281.
Australia needed to pull off a record chase in response but faltered early, losing Beth Mooney (1) and the world’s highest-ranked batter Meg Lanning without scoring.
Lanning’s dismissal – her first score of naught in almost three years – was the result of a near-unplayable delivery from veteran quick Jhulan Goswami that kissed the outside of her off stump.
But as wickets tumbled and Australia headed towards their heaviest ODI defeat, Alex Blackwell turned the tide, blasting 90 from 55 balls to briefly give rise to hopes of what would have been a miracle victory.
The last-wicket partnership between Blackwell and Kristen Beams added 76 and had the Australian camp daring to believe the impossible as the strong Indian crowd was silenced by Blackwell's stunning rear-guard.
But it wasn't to be, the right-hander dismissed with still 37 runs required and just 12 balls remaining.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first in a match reduced to 42 overs per side due to morning rain, India were rocked early as Megan Schutt and Ash Gardner claimed the openers and India played out 55 dot balls from their first 79 deliveries.
Opening batter Smriti Mandhana’s lean run continued after Schutt took just six balls to break through, enticing a miscued shot straight into the hands of Elyse Villani at point, meaning the opener's last six innings have contributed a total of 36 runs.
After Gardner removed Punam Raut with her second ball, Kaur and Mithali Raj combined for a 66-run stand through the middle overs, finding the fence and keeping the scoreboard moving with a streak of 21 consecutive singles.
But Kristen Beams was the partnership breaker, bowling Raj for 36 for the leg-spinner's 12th wicket of the tournament.
Kaur ramped things up after her skipper's dismissal; her second 50 runs came from just 26 balls and her third from only 17 deliveries in an assault on Australia’s notoriously frugal spin attack of Beams, Gardner and Jess Jonassen that former England captain Charlotte Edwards labelled the "best innings I've ever seen".
The Indian battled cramp in the final overs as the fifth-wicket stand contributed an unbeaten 43 runs from the final 20 balls of the innings.
The Indians added an extraordinary 129 runs from the final 10 overs as they completely dismantled the world No.1, who were chasing a seventh World Cup title.
India then removed Mooney, Lanning and Nicole Bolton in quick time before Elyse Villani (75 from 58 balls) and Ellyse Perry combined for a 105-run stand, Villani the aggressor as Australia maintained a lead on the par score.
But Villani’s dismissal spelt the end of the free-flowing attack and the next seven overs yielded 32 runs and four Australian wickets.
A deflection onto the stumps at the non-striker's end cost Jess Jonassen her wicket and summed up Australia’s batting innings as India capitalised on every opportunity given to them.
And despite Blackwell's late fireworks, the Aussies simply had too much to do and India earned a spot in the tournament decider against England at a sold-out Lord's on Sunday.
Australia: Nicole Bolton, Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning (c), Ellyse Perry, Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell, Alyssa Healy, Ashleigh Gardner, Jess Jonassen, Megan Schutt, Kristen Beams
India: Smrti Mandhana, Punam Raut, Mithali Raj (c), Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Veda Krishnamurthy, Sushma Verma (wk), Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav