Commonwealth Games 2022
Aussies survive big scare in Comm Games opener
A commanding innings from Ash Gardner dragged Australia over the line at Edgbaston as cricket returned to the Commonwealth Games
Laura Jolly at Edgbaston
29 July 2022, 11:30 PM AEST
Ashleigh Gardner and Grace Harris led a spirited fightback as Australia opened their Commonwealth Games account with a remarkable three-wicket win against India at Edgbaston.
After Harmanpreet Kaur (52) and Shafali Verma (48) helped India to 8-152 batting first despite Jess Jonassen’s four-wicker haul, Australia were left in tatters at 5-49 inside eight overs.
India quick Renuka Singh Thakur ran riot, taking 4-18 to run through the top-order, exposing a middle-order that had little to no game time during the recent Ireland tri-series.
But Harris led the Australian fightback with a 20-ball 37 in her first T20I innings since March 2016, before Gardner’s unbeaten 52 off 35 combined with Alana King’s handy 18 not out saw their team home with six balls to spare.
Renuka removed Alyssa Healy (0), Meg Lanning (8), Beth Mooney (10) and Tahlia McGrath (14) inside the first five overs to leave the world’s top-ranked team reeling at 4-34.
Healy’s Commonwealth Games debut lasted two balls before she edged to slip, Lanning was forced to depart when Radha Yadav clung onto a low chance at backward point, before Mooney had her stumps rattled four balls later.
In-form allrounder McGrath started brightly with three boundaries, but when she too was bowled to become Renuka’s fourth, the look of astonishment on her face said it all.
It left an enormous job for Australia’s middle-order, who were starved of time in the middle during the rain-affected Ireland T20 tri-series.
Gardner and Rachael Haynes had faced eight balls between them during that series, and the latter looked rusty before chipping a simple catch off the spin of Deepti Sharma, out for a 14-ball nine to leave Australia 5-49 in the eighth over.
However when Harris strode to the middle she immediately made an impact where those before her had fallen.
The unflappable Queenslander looked at ease as she single-handedly kept Australia in the game, smashing two huge sixes and racing to 37 off 19 balls before she was well caught by a running Kaur at mid-off, leaving Australia needing 55 off 42 with four wickets in hand.
Jonassen soon followed (3), before King rode her luck, brandishing her trademark baseball swing to hit back-to-back fours in the 17th over and keep her team in touch.
Gardner had been patient early, reaching 19 off 20 balls when Harris was dismissed, but as she settled her combination of power and finesse came to the fore.
She put on 33 off her next 15 to reach a half-century off just 34 balls, putting Australia in sight of victory before King sealed victory with a four on the final ball of the 19th over.
Earlier, Jonassen’s four-wicket haul helped restrict India to 8-154 despite superb knocks from Kaur and Verma.
A disciplined bowling display from the Australians was undermined by several missed chances in the field, the first of those coming in the second over when Rachael Haynes put down a tough one-handed chance off Smriti Mandhana.
But express quick Darcie Brown ensured the damage was limited, etching her place in the history books as the first Commonwealth Games T20 wicket taker when she had the dangerous left-hander caught behind slashing at a wider delivery, out for 24.
Healy’s catch saw her become the first ‘keeper to complete 100 T20I dismissals, but the celebrations were short-lived when she missed a leg-side stumping chance to remove Verma, removing the bails with the ball in her other glove.
Luck went Australia’s way when Yastika Bhatia slipped over mid-pitch in the 10th over, left stranded as she was easily run out for eight, as India reached 2-75 at the midway point of the innings.
Verma began to escalate, smacking 17 runs off Brown’s third over, before Jonassen claimed the huge scalp of the India opener with the help of the Decision Review System.
Her appeal for caught behind down the leg-side was initially turned down by umpire Sue Redfern, but the left-arm spinner and Healy were convinced, their conviction justified when Ultra-edge revealed a spike, ending Verma’s 33-ball onslaught on 48.
Jonassen continued to make inroads into the India line-up, removing Jemimah Rodrigues (11) and Deepti Sharma (1) in the same over, and Harleen Deol (7) in the 19th.
But there was little Australia could do to stem the flow of runs from Kaur’s bat, as she pummelled eight fours and one enormous six on her way to a 31-ball half-century.
She was finally bowled by Megan Schutt attempting after leg-side flick in the final over, out for a 34-ball 52, as India finished on 8-154.
Australia will play the Hayley Matthews-led Barbados on Sunday, while India will meet Pakistan in a highly anticipated subcontinent showdown.
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
Group A: Australia, India, Pakistan, Barbados
Group B: England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka
Semi-finals: August 6, 11am local (8pm AEST) and 6pm local (3am Aug 7 AEST)
Bronze medal match: August 7, 10am local (7pm AEST)
Gold medal match: August 7, 5pm local (2am Aug 8 AEST)
All matches played at Edgbaston Stadium