When India’s players lost their heads, it was Mooney, on her haunches sucking in the deep ones after being on the field for the entire game, whose thinking was least clouded, stealing extra runs with Carey from the visitors’ unforced errors.
Promoted to the top of the order, Mooney launched the rescue mission with a 126-run stand for the fifth wicket with unheralded all-rounder Tahlia McGrath, whose 74 off 77 deliveries was more than she had managed in her six previous games.
Mooney was the rock in the chase while McGrath and Carey played with the dare, enabling Australia to keep the asking rate at around eight to nine runs for the bulk of the chase despite the flurry of early wickets.
Needing 13 off the final over, Australia were gifted runs by unnecessary throws at the stumps, a missed shy by wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh, who did not take her gloves off, a misfield, a beamer and the fateful full toss. In a game of slender margins, those errors were costly.
Winning has become a habit for Meg Lanning’s side, and it’s one that is proving hard to shake. If ever there was a game where the Australians were vulnerable, then this game in Mackay was it.
Their attack was depleted, missing pace spearhead Megan Schutt, speedster Tayla Vlaeminck and highly dependable spinner Jess Jonassen, while superstar all-rounder Ellyse Perry is struggling to recapture her best form with the ball after hamstring surgery.
They were further weakened by a thigh injury sustained in the field by leggie Georgia Wareham, whose bowling was sorely missed given the effect spin sister Sophie Molineux had on the game.
The absence of Rachael Haynes was also a blow, more so after top-order guns Alyssa Healy, Lanning and Perry fell cheaply in the run chase, though few could have foreseen what Mooney was about to produce.
India were in the driver’s seat all night but became increasingly nervous as their rival stayed uncomfortably close in the rear-view mirror.
Their plans had worked until the closing stages. Healy fell victim to the perfect trap by seamer Jhulan Goswami, who jagged an off-cutter through the opener’s bat and pad. Ash Gardner was well caught at a floating slip by Yastika Bhatia after being enticed to drive.
Perry was caught so far short of her ground by a direct hit from inside the ring by Pooja Vastrakar that it would not have mattered even if she tested her hamstring with a desperate lunge.
The dismissal capped off an underwhelming game for Perry, who again struggled with the ball. Second on Australia’s one-day international wickets list, the superstar all-rounder bowled five wicketless overs at the cost of 32 runs.
The seamer struck teen sensation Shafali Verma with a bouncer in her first spell but, unable to group enough deliveries together, otherwise posed minimal threat to India’s openers. It was, however, a marked improvement from her first game when her radar was totally scrambled.
Perry also struggled with the ball at domestic level last season, claiming just eight wickets in 13 games in the WBBL and two wickets at 76.5 for the Lanning-led Victoria in the WNCL.
There are, however, mitigating factors for Perry’s slow start to this campaign. She is coming back from a serious injury while two weeks in hotel quarantine before this series was less than ideal.
That Lanning has many options with the ball in the middle overs could also explain why she was not used more. When wickets were needed, Lanning turned to third-gamer Darcie Brown, who starred in game one, while all-rounder Brown’s seamers were also preferred.
Coming off a less than ideal preparation in hotel quarantine, Wareham injured her thigh while running to collect a ball in the outfield. She was notably proppy after the effort and left the field moments later, leaving Australia a bowler down.
It was unclear how serious Wareham’s injury is but even a minor strain would cast doubt over her availability for the remainder of the all-format series, which continues on Sunday with the final ODI before a rare Test and the Twenty20s.
Smriti Mandhana set up India’s innings with a dashing 86 off 94 balls, though took some polish off her performance by running out skipper Mitahli Raj in a terrible mix-up.
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