Gardner and Harris put India to sword

An awesome display of hitting by Ash Gardner and Grace Harris has secured Australia a 4-1 series win in the T20 international series in India.

The duo smashed 129 in 10.2 overs in an unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership in Mumbai, providing the platform for an impressive 54-run win.

New South Walian Gardner cracked 66 off 32 balls with 11 fours and a six. Queenslander Harris bludgeoned 64 off 35 with six fours and fours sixes.

After Australia, put into bat, racked up 4-196 off their 20 overs at the historic Brabourne Stadium, India could only muster 142, being all out off the final ball.

World ranked No.3 batter Smriti Mandhana went for four in the first over after which wickets tumbled regularly. Harleen Deol (24 off 16 balls) got going but she was run out by stand-in skipper Talia McGrath.

Belated resistance came from Deepti Sharma, who snacked 53 off 34 balls before being last out, fittingly caught on the ropes by Gardner off Heather Graham.

That gave Graham remarkable figures of four wickets for eight runs off two overs. She also took a fine catch on the long-on boundary but as in the fourth match Gardner was the all-round star again taking 2-20 off four overs and adding two catches besides her batting.

Australian captain Alyssa Healy had strained her calf while batting in the fourth match so McGrath took the reins, Beth Mooney the gloves, and Phoebe Litchfield stepped in as opener. Australia also made a change in their bowling attack with Kim Garth replacing Megan Schutt.

Litchfield, playing in her second international but making her batting debut, began well, straight-driving her second ball to the boundary. She then gained a fortunate six as an attempted run-out as she ran two produced four overthrows.

However, off her ninth ball she was stumped for 11 as she sought to attack Sharma.

That left Australia 2-17 midway through the third over as Mooney was already back in the hutch after chopping on fourth ball for two.

By the end of the fifth over, with Australia 2-24, McGrath knew it was time to lead by example. Hitting sixes over extra cover and long-on the No.1 women’s T20 batter took 17 off the sixth over, plus a wide.

However, by the end of the tenth over both McGrath (stumped for a run-a-ball 26) and the in-form Ellyse Perry (caught at long-on for 18 off 14) were gone as Australia reached the mid-point 4-72.

Gardner and Harris steadied matters, then cut loose with Gardner hitting four successive fours in the 13th over and Harris hitting three sixes in seven balls across the next two. They kept that pace up hitting at least two boundaries off each of the last eight overs as India wilted to the extent two more sets of four overthrows were conceded.

Harris went to her maiden T20I 50 in 28 balls with a six, Gardner, two deliveries later, to her half-century off 25 with a four. Between them they had crushed India’s spirit and set Australia on course for victory.

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