5th T20I: Harris, Gardner, Graham power Australia to 4-1 series win over India

Australia Women finished their tour of India in style as an extraordinary partnership between Ashleigh Gardner and Grace Harris followed by a Heather Graham hat-trick powered them to an emphatic 54-run win in the fifth and final T20I and 4-1 series win over the hosts at Brabourne Stadium, here on Tuesday.

Gardner (66 not out off 32) and Harris (64 not out off 35) put on a staggering display of timing and power to stitch an unbeaten 129-run partnership for the fifth wicket and guide Australia to 196-4, their highest total of the series.

The 26-year-old Graham then picked up 4-8, including a hat-trick spread across two overs, as India were bowled out for 142 on the final ball of the innings, sealing a 4-1 result in Australia’s favour. She removed Devika Vaidya (11) and Radha Yadav (0) in the 13th over, then returned to bowl Renuka Thakur with the first ball of the final over.

The 26-year-old Graham, who was playing just her third T20I, became the second Australian woman to take a T20I hat-trick. The first, Megan Schutt, achieved the feat at the same venue in 2018.

Put into bat by India for a fourth consecutive match, Australian opener Beth Mooney was joined by fellow left-hander Phoebe Litchfield at the top of the order in place of the injured Alyssa Healy. But the new-look opening partnership was broken in just seven balls into the match when Mooney was dismissed by Anjali Sarvani.

Litchfield’s first boundary in international cricket came via a picture-perfect straight drive but she couldn’t carry on for long and was stumped for 11 in Deepti Sharma’s over.

The No.3 Tahlia McGrath got going with two maximums but her first innings as Australia skipper ended when she was stumped on 26 off 26. Ellyse Perry (18) cut to the boundary the first ball but she was denied a third consecutive half-century when she holed out to long-on in the 10th over.

Australia were 72/4 when Harris and Gardner came together in the 10th over of the innings and what followed was carnage as they smashed 129 runs off the final 10.2 overs at a rate of 12.64.

Harris’s first international fifty came off 28 balls while Gardner raced to her half-century in just 26 deliveries. Gardner cleared the rope just once but was punishing along the ground hitting 11 fours while Harris smacked four sixes and six fours.

After putting a massive total on the board, Darcie Brown got the wicket of Smriti Mandhana (4) in the first over and Shafali Verma (13) holed out in the deep to Gardner in the 5th over.

Meanwhile, Harleen Doel made a positive start after being promoted to No.3 but a mix-up saw her run out for a 16-ball 24. And, when Harmanpreet Kaur (12) was trapped lbw and Richa Ghosh (10) was superbly caught on the rope by Graham, India were in all sorts of trouble at 70-5 in 9.2 overs.

Deepti Sharma gave the strong crowd something to cheer about late with an unbeaten 34-ball 53, but India finished well adrift of their target of 198. Apart from Graham, Gardner was once again brilliant for Australia, taking 2-20 off her four overs.

With this, Australia closed their book in 2022 which saw them win both the one-day World Cup and Commonwealth Games gold, alongside bilateral series against England and India, and a tri-series against Ireland and Pakistan.

Brief scores: Australia Women 196/4 in 20 overs (Gardner 66 not out, Harris 64 not out) beat India Women 142 all out in 20 overs (Deepti 53; Gardner 2-20) by 54 runs

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