In the history of Australian batting collapses Wednesday's will go down as one of their worst – but they may not be shedding too many tears.
For a nation known as one of cricket's most competitive, failing to knock off the final 35 runs with six wickets in hand against the West Indies in the last round of the World Cup Super Six stage can only bring shame... except in doing so they eliminated the pre-tournament favourites and their arch-rivals, England, and will now face the West Indies again in Sunday's final. Australia will fancy their chances of claiming the trophy.
Jodie Fields' side were cruising at 130 for 4 in pursuit of 165 but a collapse of four wickets for 10 runs – three of them for just a single – would eventually leave Australia eight short, handing West Indies their first win over the Southern Stars and a place in their maiden World Cup final.
The three quick wickets of Alex Blackwell, Fields and Julie Hunter, in the space of 14 balls turned the match on its head and had a far-reaching effect on the competition.
Defending champions England, who had expected to face Australia in the final, were knocked out as a result despite a 15-run win over New Zealand in Mumbai. England will now meet the Kiwis again in tomorrow's play-off for third place.
England needed Australia – who were already through to the final before the game – to beat the West Indies after slipping up earlier in the tournament but found out during their game against New Zealand that their final chance had gone.
They won nonethless, with Sarah Taylor making 88 and captain Charlotte Edwards 54 in a total of 266 for 6. New Zealand captain Suzie Bates replied with 79 and Amy Satterthwaite 103 but they lost late wickets to fall short on 251 for 9.
Edwards said: "Halfway through the game we got the Windies result but it was about putting in a professional performance. I am proud of the way the girls ended the match but disappointed about the bigger picture.
"I found out by looking up at the big screen while I was batting, which is not ideal. It's our own fault though. Our own inconsistency up front in the tournament has cost us. But there is still a lot to be proud of, a lot of these players have got great futures in the game."
England paid the price for two narrow defeats, the one-wicket last-ball opening loss to Sri Lanka in the group stages, and a two-run reverse against Australia in the Super Sixes. Dropped catches and poor batting cost them in both those games.
Taylor replaced Danielle Wyatt, who had shared an opening stand of 59 with her captain. With Edwards herself caught with the score on 127, Taylor, linked with a move to men's cricket before the World Cup, survived a further 10 overs to top score for her side. She had come close to a fourth successive duck but was dropped at square leg and made the most of her good fortune hitting 16 fours and one six in her 79-ball stay.
England ready to 'bully' Ashes rivals, warns Prior
England, chasing four consecutive Ashes urns for the first time in 123 years, are ready to "bully" Australia in this year's back-to-back series, Matt Prior has warned.
"I remember watching Warne, Hayden and McGrath and the way they walked around and bullied England," he said. "Maybe it's our time to do a bit of bullying. If we prepare and perform as we want to, there's no reason why we shouldn't dominate Australia. You look at the skills we have in our team – batters, bowlers, the spin department, it's all there."
Past Australia teams revelled in grinding down England with bat, ball and the odd choice word. But, said Prior: "There's more to it than the odd sledge. There are ways of creating an intensity on the pitch, like the way we hustle around, the way our bowlers put the ball in the right area all day long."
But although Australia's current 17-man Test squad contains only eight players with Ashes experience, England's wicketkeeper remains wary of a team which recently held their own against top-ranked South Africa. "Ashes series are strange – there is no such thing as a weak Australian Test side and we will have to be on our game."