Australian women maintained their stranglehold on India with a record-equalling six-wicket victory in the opening encounter of the T20 Tri-Series. The Southern Stars thus maintained their unbeaten record on tour having outclassed the hosts 3-0 in the ODI series. The Aussies had total control after restricting the hosts to 152/5 and easily chased down the target as the bowlers were hammered. Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning and Elyse Vilani's contribution was more than enough as they win the opener of the Tri-Nation series.
While the format changed from 50 to 20 overs but the familiar middle-order collapse still continued.
Opener Smriti Mandhana once again struck a stylish 67 off 41 balls, helping India post a decent total of 152 for five in 20 overs.
In reply, Australia equalled their highest-ever chase in the shortest format, comfortably winning in 18.1 overs despite a fine effort by veteran Jhulan Goswami (3/30), who unfortunately lacked support from the other end.
The biggest problem was that save Goswami, the other two seamers Shikha Pandey (0/25 in 2 overs) and Rumeli Dhar (0/28 in 2.1 overs).
Indian bowlers bowled too many boundary-balls with as many 21 fours and six were taken off them.
Chasing 153, Australia women were in trouble at one point of time 29 for 2 as Goswami struck in her first and the third over, cleaning up 'keeper-opener Alyssa Healy (4) and Ashleigh Gardner (15).
But that did not deter other opener Beth Mooney (45 off 32 balls) from playing her shots as she hammered both pace and spin alike. She found an able partner in Villani (39 off 33 balls) as they added 79 runs for the third wicket.
The duo rotated strike, dispatching the loose balls to the fence with ease. While Mooney struck eight boundaries, Villani had four hits to the fence.
Goswami in her second spell, removed the dangerous Mooney, after she was caught by Shikha Pandey but by then Australia had reached 108 in the 13th over.
In the very next over, leg-spinner Poonam Yadav caught Villani off her own bowling, when the batswoman came down the track and unsuccessfully jabbed at a delivery that stopped on her.
But then skipper Meg Lanning (35 not out in 25 balls) and Rachael Haynes (12 not out) ensured that no further damaged was done and took the side home with 11 balls to spare.
Lanning, who had not scored big in the One Days, looked in good touch and her knock was laced with four boundaries and a six.
Earlier, Mandhana struck 11 boundaries and two sixes but India failed to capitalise on a strong platform provided by her and Mithali Raj (18 off 27 balls). They added 72 runs in 9.3 overs.
The hosts scored 47 in the Powerplay as Mandhana played shots all around the park en route her career-best score in T20 cricket.
While veteran Raj played out a maiden first over, it was Mandhana, who gave the team the much-needed momentum, after hitting two fours in the second over off-spinner Gardner.
Mandhana in an over from left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen hit two fours and a six down the ground. She notched up her fifty in just 30 balls after a six over third man with Mithali playing a second fiddle.
After Mithali was dismissed in the 1Oth over, Mandhana continued her onslaught and sloppy fielding by the Australians too aided her.
After that the Australians stormed back into the game picking two quick wickets of Jemmimah Rodrigues (1), falling to a short delivery and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (13) to a bad shot.
It was a cameo from Anuja Patil (35 off 21 balls) that propelled the hosts past the 140-run-mark as they ended with 152/5, the highest score for the hosts against the Aussies.
Tomorrow Australia face England in the second game of the series.
Brief Scores: India Women 152/5 in 20 overs (Smriti Mandhana 67 off 41 balls, Ashleigh Gardner 2/22) lost to Australia Women 156/4 in 18.1 overs (Beth Mooney 45, Jhulan Goswami 3/30) by six wickets.
(With PTI Inputs)