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Three-time defending champions Australia stepped closer to a fourth successive Women’s World Twenty20 title with an impressive five-run win over old foe England in the first semi-final here on Wednesday.

Australia captain Meg Lanning hit 55 off 50 balls to steer her team to 132/6 after they were sent in to bat on a slow pitch at the Ferozeshah Kotla. England, runners-up to Australia in 2012 and 2014, were kept down to 127/7 despite an opening stand of 67 in 10 overs between skipper Charlotte Edwards (31) and Tammy Beaumont (32).

Australia awaits the winner of Thursday’s second semi-final between New Zealand and the West Indies in Mumbai in the title clash at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.

Australia’s innings was anchored by their captain Lanning, who came in to bat at the fall of the first wicket in the sixth over and stayed till the 20th to help her team record their highest total in the tournament. Lanning, world’s No.1 ranked batter, hit six boundaries, but opener Alyssa Healy (25) was the only other player to cross 20.

Australia, who were 121/3 after 18 overs, conceded ground by losing three wickets in the final two overs for the addition of just 11 runs. Natalie Sciver was England’s most successful bowler with 2/22 while Laura Marsh finished with 1/18.

England were coasting at 89/1 in the 14th over but then managed just another 38 runs for the loss of six wickets as Australia turned on the screws. Megan Schutt claimed 2/15.

Lanning said the key to winning was her team’s good start when 41 runs came during the first six PowerPlay overs.

“We knew the PowerPlay was crucial and that got us ahead. We were able to build on the momentum. And the bowlers did a great job to pull things back,” said Lanning.

Lanning said it did not matter whether undefeated New Zealand or the West Indies made it to the final.

“We don’t mind facing either of them. New Zealand have obviously done well so far in the tournament and the West Indies are capable of doing anything, even putting 160 on the board. It should be a good match and we will be ready for either of them,” she said.

Edwards said the inability to push the scoring cost her team the match.

“Australia held their nerve and that was the difference. We could not keep it going. We also did not start well with the ball but, at least, dragged it back a little. It was not meant to be for us today,” the 36-year-old said.

Brief scores: Australia 132/6 in 20 overs (Meg Lanning 55, Alyssa Healy 25; Natalie Sciver 2/22, Laura Marsh 1/18) beat England 127/7 in 20 overs (Charlotte Edwards 31, Tammy Beaumont 32, Sarah Taylor 21; Megan Schutt 2/15).

    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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