Emily Collin for Commonwealth Games Australia
Image: Getty Images
The talented all-rounder produced a match-saving performance against India on the opening day of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
A heroic effort from Ashleigh Gardner saved Australia from the brink as she plundered an unbeaten half-century to chase down India and secure an unlikely three wicket-win to mark the debut women’s cricket at the Commonwealth Games.
In pursuit of India’s 7-154, Gardner came to the crease with Australia reeling at 5-49 after a scintillating new-ball spell from Indian seamer Renuka Singh Thakur.
Thakur had Indian fans at Edgbaston on their feet as she tore through Australia’s top order, removing Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Beth Mooney and Tahlia McGrath inside the first four overs.
But the dynamic Gardner strode to the crease with trademark swagger and unleashed a barrage of boundaries to finish unbeaten on 52 off 35, with a strike rate of 148.57, seeing Australia home with an over to spare.
While Gardner sealed the deal, it was Grace Harris (37 off 20) who was able to swing the momentum in favour of Australia with a fearless knock that was highlighted by two huge sixes.
With Harris back in the sheds, it was over to Alana King who joined Gardner in the 15th over with the equation for Australia 45 from 34.
King crucially found the boundary with consecutive balls in the 17th over to keep the Australians in the contest and was able to find the rope off the final ball of the 19th over to seal an unlikely win.
— Australian Women’s Cricket Team 🏏 (@AusWomenCricket) July 29, 2022
Earlier, a four-wicket haul for Jess Jonassen helped to restrict India but young opener Shafali Verma (48 off 33) and captain Kaur (52 off 34) piled on the runs to heap pressure on the Australian bowlers.
Young Australian firebrand Darcie Brown took the first wicket of the Commonwealth Games, as Healy took the catch behind the stumps to remove Yastika Bhatia and become the first cricketer in history – female or male – to complete 100 T20 International dismissals.
Smriti Mandhana (24 off 17) looked in top form and Harmanpreet Kaur’s late flurry, that included one enormous six that even drew a bemused laugh from Jonassen, pushed India beyond 150.
Jonassen (4-22) at one stage had 4-15 before Kaur lifted the final ball of her spell well over the long-on fence, while Megan Schutt (2-26) held her nerve with two wickets in the final over.
Australia’s next task in Birmingham will be against Barbados on Sunday.
Barbados are the representative team for the West Indies and are captained by one of the world’s best allrounders, Hayley Matthews.
Australia will train at Moseley Cricket Club on Friday and will no doubt closely analyse and review the narrow contest against India, in particular the failure of the usually bankable top order.