If there was ever a time there were questions over Australia’s batting strength – and depth – it might well be past now. The defending champions crushed Pakistan by 159 runs as they galloped towards a semi-final spot in the Women’s World Cup, and to have done so without their captain Meg Lanning, who sat out of the game because of a shoulder niggle, was nothing short of a warning sign to all of their rivals.
The margin of victory – their fourth on the trot – also hid other hurdles that Australia had to cross. They had their backs to the wall after 10 overs, with Pakistan seamers Asmavia Iqbal and Diana Baig picking up a wicket each and keeping the score down to a mere 18. When Rachael Haynes, the stand-in captain, was wrongly adjudged caught behind, her team was tottering at 60 for 3 in the 20th.
Elyse Villani, who was out for a duck off the only ball she had faced in the competition until now, added a dash of madness to proceedings with a half-century off only 34 balls. Her partner Ellyse Perry was the consummate accumulator and the duo put on 83 runs in 67 balls to resurrect the innings. With Perry too bringing up a half-century – her second in as many matches – Australia were aiming at 250.
They finished on 290 thanks to wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy, who hadn’t batted so far in the tournament. She inflicted more wounds into a dispirited Pakistan attack, smashing nine fours and two sixes in her unbeaten 40-ball 63 as Australia hammered 128 runs in the last 15 overs. Healy, whose expert use of the crease helped her manipulate the bowlers’ lengths, had fine support from Ashleigh Gardner, the No. 10 batsman, who made a 13-ball 22.
In reply, Pakistan’s chase simply meandered along. Batsman after batsman came out to defend and spend time at the crease rather than have a crack at the bowling. And when they finally did pay some heed to an ever rising required rate, they simply perished. At no stage were Australia stretched. The only form of resistance came from Sana Mir, the captain, who faced 85 deliveries for 45.
Jess Jonassen, the left-arm spinner who opened the bowling, was impressive, finishing with 10-6-12-1. Kristen Beams, the legspinner who was left out of the previous game, sliced through the middle order, beating Marina Iqbal, Nain Abidi and Iqbal with flight and dip. Gardner chipped in with three wickets while Sarah Aley, the 33-year old debutant, with no pressure to contend with, was rewarded for disciplined lines and lengths to finish with 2 for 29. Pakistan were bowled out for 131 in 50 overs, their fourth defeat ushering them close to elimination.
Pakistan, who controlled the first half of the innings superbly, didn’t help their cause with poor fielding. Villani was let off on 7 when Sadia Yousuf failed to attempt a straightforward catch at deep backward square leg. Strangely, she kept moving back in an attempt to stop the boundary, only to see the ball spin past her anyway. Wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz too was guilty of a few let-offs in the form of catches and byes.
Additionally, Mir was perhaps a little guilty of using her pacers non-stop for 13 overs. Towards the end of the opening spell, Iqbal and Baig started to tire as Australia nailed five fours between overs 10 to 15 to get off the blocks. When Yousuf reprieved Villani, the floodgates opened.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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