Australia chased down their target with just three balls to spare to overcome a determined New Zealand outfit in Birmingham
Australia will go for gold at Edgbaston after seeing off a determined New Zealand outfit in a Commonwealth Games semi-final that got a little too close for comfort for Meg Lanning's team.
Set 145 for victory, Australia reaped the benefits from some sloppy fielding from their trans-Tasman rivals, but the match still went down to the wire as Ashleigh Gardner and Grace Harris sealed a five-wicket victory with three balls to spare.
Veteran quick Lea Tahuhu, who was a late addition to the New Zealand squad due to an injury to Jess Kerr, claimed 3-20 to give her side a fighting chance to advancing to the gold medal match, but Australia's batters, led by Beth Mooney (36), Tahlia McGrath (34) and Gardner (19no) did enough to see their side through.
Australia will go head-to-head with India for the gold medal in Sunday's final (2am Monday, AEST), while New Zealand have a shot at bronze against England (7pm Sunday AEST).
New Zealand were left to rue the chances they missed; Mooney, McGrath and Meg Lanning were all handed lives through dropped catches.
Alyssa Healy (14 off 10) make a bright start hitting three boundaries, but had to depart when she edged behind down the leg side, handing Tahuhu her first.
Lanning was put down first ball, Amelia Kerr grassing a tough one-handed chance that would have handed Tahuhu her second.
Familiar rivals, the Australian skipper and the veteran Kiwi quick engaged in a short but intriguing battle with Lanning kept quiet early before she dispatched Tahuhu over the rope.
But the White Fern had the last laugh, yorking the Aussie skipper two balls later, ending her innings on seven.
While Lanning's drop was not costly, the White Ferns had to rue the lives handed to Mooney on six – put down by 'keeper Izzy Gaze – and McGrath, dropped on 14.Image Id: E56616AB168A456E910765C68EF0751F Image Caption: Meg Lanning made just 7 before she was yorked by Lea Tahuhu // Getty
That chance aside, McGrath looked in fine form, striking six boundaries as she raced to 34 off 23 balls.
It was going to take something special to break the McGrath-Mooney stand and Kerr produced exactly that, with a brilliant diving save and throw to run McGrath out in the 11th over.
With Mooney cruising, again it was Tahuhu who provided the spark for New Zealand, as the left-hander was caught in the deep on 36.
Her wicket-maiden left Australia needing 42 off 36 with two fresh batters at the crease in Rachael Haynes and Ashleigh Gardner.
The Aussie pair continued to chip away at their target, but Suzie Bates again ignited the White Ferns with a brilliant running catch to remove Haynes on 19, leaving Australia needing 16 from 16.Image Id: 6813DC81CDB34C528E6B1ADB8312F8F9 Image Caption: Susie Bates flew across the turf to snare Rachel Haynes' wicket // Getty
Harris arrived at the crease with her usual swagger and found the boundary second ball to ease the pressure.
With two required off the last over, and Sophie Devine taking the ball as she threw everything she could at Australia with funky field placements, Gardner and Harris scrambled two singles to seal their date with India.
Earlier, Megan Schutt's 3-20 helped restrict the White Ferns after the foundation laid by Devine's 48-ball 53, and Kerr's career-best 40.
Schutt handed Australia the perfect start when she had Suzie Bates chopping on for a first-ball duck with the fifth ball of the match.Image Id: E58763585CDD4B39B43B0FF8846CA161 Image Caption: Megan Schutt struck in the first over on her way to three poles // Getty
New Zealand had made a bold call to include debutant Georgia Plimmer in their semi-final XI, and sent the aggressive 18-year-old out at No.3 ahead of Amelia Kerr.
At first it appeared her debut innings would be a short one as she was adjudged lbw to Schutt first ball, but she successfully overturned the decision on review.
With impressive fearlessness on the big stage, Plimmer found the boundary three times before Schutt had her second time around, bowling the right-hander for a 16-ball 17.
Devine and Kerr steadied through the middle overs, taking New Zealand to 2-63 at the halfway mark of the innings before looking to accelerate.Image Id: B4A9EA7964D7493CAE02168D9A928F8F Image Caption: Ashleigh Gardner brought the Aussies home with a steady innings // Getty
Jonassen was identified as the target, with Devine hitting a four, then a six off the left-armer to bring up a 46-ball half-century.
But the Australian had the last laugh when Devine holed out in the deep attempting to repeat the dose, breaking a 73-run stand, and Kerr departed an over later, deceived by a McGrath slower ball and skying a catch to Darcie Brown.
Brooke Halliday added 16 off 10 to boost the White Ferns' total, but tight death overs from McGrath and Schutt limited the damage.
2022 Commonwealth Games
Australia's squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington
See all the Commonwealth Games cricket squads here
Group A: Australia, India, Pakistan, Barbados
Group B: England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka
July 29: Australia beat India by three wickets
July 31: Australia beat Barbados by nine wickets
August 3: Australia beat Pakistan by 44 runs
Semi-finals: August 6
India beat England by four runs
Australia beat New Zealand by five wickets
Bronze medal match: England v New Zealand, August 7, 10am local (7pm AEST)
Gold medal match: Australia v India, August 7, 5pm local (2am Aug 8 AEST)
All matches played at Edgbaston Stadium. Watch live or on demand via 7Plus