Derby, UK: India stunned defending champions Australia by 36 runs to secure a spot in the Women’s World Cup final after an undefeated 171 by Harmanpreet Kaur provided the platform for victory on Thursday.
With their first win over six-time champions Australia in World Cup knockout cricket, India will now play tournament hosts England in the sold-out Lord’s final on Sunday.
Australia, set 282 to win and what would have been a record World Cup chase if successful, got off to a terrible start as they lost three wickets inside the opening eight overs.
Despite some impressive hitting from Elyse Villani, who recorded her best ODI score of 75, they were never able to keep up with the required run rate and were dismissed for 245 with 11 balls to spare.
Earlier, Kaur’s unbeaten 171 –- her third ODI century, which came off just 115 balls and included 20 fours and seven sixes –- underpinned India’s 281 for four.
India, who reached their only previous final in 2005, had experienced a disappointing start of their own as they sunk to 101-3, including the dismissal of inspirational captain Mithali Raj for 36.
However, Kaur, 28, revitalised the innings with a rapid fourth-wicket partnership of 137 with all-rounder Deepti Sharma.
Kaur, who scored her first hundred outside of India, was named player-of-the match.
In a match reduced to 42 overs after heavy rain delayed the start until 13:45 pm (1245 GMT), India looked likely to score under 200 until Kaur cut loose.
India, calling on their knowledge of the pitch, having won all four group stage matches they contested at Derby, decided to bat first after winning the toss.
However, they were left in a perilous position when opener Smriti Mandhana (six) departed in the first over and Punam Raut (14) joined her in the pavilion not long after.
Kaur took on the role of aggressor as she and Raj made steady progress, before leg-spinner Kristen Beams bowled Raj for 36 having been dropped the previous delivery.
Kaur continued to attack in a merciless display of hitting, requiring 26 balls to move from her half-century to triple figures, when she was almost run out scampering a two to reach the landmark.
That scare and the wicket of Sharma did little to deter her, using only 18 balls to then bring up her 150, as India smashed the final six overs for 79 runs.
India then had a dream start with the ball as Shikah Pandey bowled Beth Mooney (one) and Jhulan Goswami dislodged Meg Lanning’s stumps, for the Australian captain’s first duck since August 2014.
When in-form Nicole Bolton was caught and bowled for 14 by Sharma, Australia were left teetering on 21-3.
Villani kept Australia within touching distance of the chase with a commanding 75 off 58 balls but her departure, dragging Rajeshwari Gayakwad to Manhana, ended those hopes.
Ellyse Perry became the tournament’s top scorer during her 38 but guided Pandey to wicket-keeper Sushma Verma to prompt a collapse.
A brutal 90 from Alex Backwell proved in vain as Sharma bowled her to end the semi-final and spark rapturous scenes.