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Harmanpreet Kaur’s power-hitting takes India past Australia into final

In one of the most spectacular innings in limited-overs cricket Harmanpreet Kaur sent India into the final of the World Cup with an unbeaten 171 from 115 balls, ousting Australia, the favourites and champions. India will meet England on Sunday in their first 50-over final since 2005, looking to secure their first women’s ICC trophy. The manner of their 36-run victory, along with Kaur’s unrelenting assault, leaves England with much to think about. Remember that India inflicted defeat upon England in the opening match of this competition.

Kaur is very much a known quantity. She is a clean ball-striker who, in her own words, has aggression in her genes. The Australia coach, Matthew Mott, had identified her before the match as one to look out for. She was the first Indian cricketer – male or female – to earn an overseas franchise Twenty20 gig when she won a contract with Sydney Thunder in the WBBL, something which her captain, Mithali Raj, credits for producing this innings. This summer she will continue blazing a trail in England when she turns out for the Surrey Stars in the Kia Women’s Super League.

It was truly a remarkable knock. The seven sixes – most fetched on the leg side, a couple, towering, down the ground – showed just what Mott was worried about. When Kaur came to the crease India were 35 for two at the start of the 10th over, with the morning rains making this a 42-over match. The way she went through the gears was remarkable and the numbers tell the story: upon reaching 50 she flicked a switch and scored the remaining 121 runs from only 51 balls.

Her hundred was eventful. Upon striking two sixes over square leg she ran for two only for her partner, Deepti Sharma, to stutter and nearly get run out at the nonstriker’s end. Kaur was irate, tossing her bat and gloves to the ground as the review was sent upstairs to the TV umpire. It came back not out to confirm her third ODI hundred, from 90 balls. While she was at the crease 246 was added to what was India’s second highest ODI score.

A perfect restart for India followed. Australia were pegged three times in the opening eight overs, Jhulan Goswami removing Meg Lanning for her first duck since August 2014 with the ball of the tournament (angling in, before leaving the right-hander for dead and clipping her off stump).

Ellyse Perry and Elyse Villani fought back. Villani led the charge in a century partnership off 89 balls in which the second 50 took 39. When Villani was dismissed for 75 – a career best – and Perry and Alyssa Healy followed in 33 balls, India were back in control.

The game looked cooked at that point, with Australia requiring 113 from the final 57 balls. Alex Blackwell disagreed. Aged 33, this may well be her last World Cup and she marshalled the No11, Kristen Beams, expertly while bringing up a half-century from 36 balls, which included six fours and, at the end of the 35th over, the first six of the Australia innings.

She would go on to hit two more huge sixes down the ground and five more fours. But, on 90, with 37 needed from the final 12 balls, she was bowled by Sharma to hand India victory. She contributed 65 to the last-wicket stand of 76, which is a record for the 10th wicket in women’s ODIs. But that is a dull silver lining to a second world tournament in as many years that Australia have left empty-handed.

Raj was feisty about their prospects of facing England at Lord’s on Sunday: “Playing a host in their own country is going to be a challenge. Having said that – this unit is up for it.”