India pip New Zealand to reach T20 semis as Australia edge closer


Melbourne (AFP)

Teenage prodigy Shafali Verma helped India earn a nail-biting win over New Zealand Thursday and reach the women's Twenty20 World Cup semi-finals, as defending champions Australia inched closer to joining them.

New Zealand won the toss at Melbourne's Junction Oval and opted to bowl, restricting India to 133 for eight after 16-year-old Verma gave them a strong start with three sixes and four fours in a quickfire 46.

But they failed with the bat, narrowly missing their target despite a swashbuckling late charge by Amelia Kerr, leaving them on 129 for six.

"It's a great feeling when your team performs day in day out," said skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, after India become the first team into the last four.

"But we still made the same mistakes after a good first 10 overs -- we got a good start but couldn't carry the momentum. We can't make silly mistakes with harder games coming up."

After opening their campaign by upsetting four-time champions Australia, India beat Bangladesh, and their New Zealand victory made it three from three to ensure a semi-final berth for the second successive tournament.

They still need to play Sri Lanka in Group B, with the top two from each of the two five-team groups qualifying for the knockout phase.

Two-time finalists New Zealand are now 1-1 from their two games, with Australia two from three after crushing Bangladesh in Canberra by 86 runs, with Alyssa Healy cracking 83 and Beth Moody 81 in an imposing 189 for one -- the highest total of the World Cup so far.

New Zealand play Bangladesh next and should they win will set up a crunch clash against Australia on Monday to determine who joins India in the semi-finals from their side of the draw.

- 'We can't sulk about it' -

"We certainly can't dwell on this or sulk about it for too long," New Zealand captain Sophie Devine said of the defeat.

India started solidly before Smriti Mandhana dragged a Lea Tahuhu delivery onto her stumps.

Undeterred, the dynamic Verma clicked into gear and clubbed two big sixes in a row to get the scoreboard moving.

Rosemary Mair snapped a dangerous 51-run partnership with Tanya Bhatia (23) and Jemimah Rodrigues fell for 10.

Verma rode her luck at the other end, surviving dropped chances on 26 and 32, and looked destined for a half-century before holing out to Hayley Jenson near the boundary rope.

Rachel Priest smacked two boundaries off the opening over in the run chase but she was gone by the second.

Suzie Bates, the highest run-scorer in T20 World Cup history, soon followed, attempting a paddle sweep.

When Devine, who had made 50 or more in her last six T20Is, mishit a Poonam Yadav delivery and was caught for 14 they were in trouble.

With 40 needed from the last three overs Kerr (34) rose to the challenge with a Shikha Pandey yorker preventing the six she needed off the last ball to win.

In Canberra, Healy and Moody put on 151 for the opening wicket against a hapless Bangladesh, who were guilty of fielding blunders, with numerous chances dropped.

Fargana Hoque scored 36 for Bangladesh but they were never in the run chase with Megan Schutt taking three wickets in their 103 for nine.

"We just had really clear plans in our heads as to what we were going to do," said Healy. "It didn't feel easy batting out there, but we put up a good total."