India secures semifinal spot at Women’s Twenty20 World Cup

Melbourne (AP/UNB) — India secured the first of the semifinal spots at the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup after holding off New Zealand for a three-run win at the Junction Oval on Thursday to improve to 3-0 in the group stage.

The 16-year-old opener Shafali Verma scored 46 from 34 balls to guide India to 133-8, a target usually well within reach of a New Zealand lineup that hadn’t failed to chase a sub-140 total in the T20 format in more than six years.

But with Sophie Devine (14), Rachel Priest (12) and Suzie Bates (6) all out by the ninth over, New Zealand slipped to 34-3 and just fell short in the chase, finishing 130-6 despite a late 34 from 19 balls from 19-year-old Amelia Kerr, who earlier took two wickets.

India opened the tournament with a 17-run win over defending champion Australia at the Sydney Showground Stadium last Friday and followed up with an 18-run win over Bangladesh. It has one more group game against Sri Lanka on Saturday before the semifinals, which are scheduled for March 5.

India has never won the women’s T20 World Cup. The Australians have won four of the previous six editions, with England winning the inaugural event in 2009 and West Indies winning in 2018.