Sport

T20 cricketers nudge Australia towards 1,000 Commonwealth Games gold medals

Another rush of gold on a tense day in Birmingham has Australia within reach of two major achievements as the 2022 Commonwealth Games reaches its conclusion. Australia hold a decisive lead on host nation England on the medal table and are also within reach of becoming the first nation to claim 1,000 Commonwealth Games gold medals.

With Edgbaston in shadows, Australia’s cricketers created history when edging India by nine runs to win the first Commonwealth Games gold medal awarded to women. It adds to the Australians stunning record in women’s cricket, but it was a near run thing, with India threatening to pull off a remarkable run chase right to the death.

On a day of drama, Australia confirmed midway through their innings that Tahlia McGrath had tested positive to Covid-19 on Sunday morning. If the final had been held in Australia, she would not have been able to play but the Commonwealth Games rules are more relaxed to match the laws of the host nation.

After checking with bodies including the International Cricket Council and the Commonwealth Games Foundation, she was allowed to take her place, with precautions. She sat isolated from her teammates during the batting innings and in a surreal moment after taking a catch in the third over, she waved her teammates away as they ran to celebrate.

Australia had been on top until reeled in late in their innings. Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur then batted brilliantly when scoring 65 from 43 balls. But when she was caught by record-breaking wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy off the bowling of Gardner in the 16th over, the momentum swung back towards the Australians.

As Australia were trying to reel India’s run chase in, Peter Bol set off in pursuit of Kenyan Wycliffe Kinyamal at Alexander Stadium but had to settle for silver 0.14 seconds behind the record-breaker, who became the first man to defend the Commonwealth Games 800m title in 1:47.52.

“I got a medal and that’s what we wanted,” Bol said. “I had a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations, but I lived up to it, and that’s my first medal at a major championships.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Hockeyroos also fared second best in their final against England when beaten 2-1. A week after the Lionesses became the pride of England, the chant of “Hockey’s coming home” was heard ringing around the University of Birmingham as the host nation claimed their first gold medal in women’s hockey.

Captain Kaitlin Nobbs looked at the silver linings despite the loss for a team that recently claimed a bronze medal in the recent world championships. “It was a really long game and it just really hurt and sucked a little bit. But now I’m seeing the positives. We’ve got a lot of young girls in the team now that have brought a lot of energy,” she said

There were several standout individual performances from Australians leading into the women’s teams events later in the day.

Kelsey-Lee Barber throws on her way to gold in Birmingham.
Kelsey-Lee Barber throws on her way to gold in Birmingham. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

A double world champion in javelin, Kelsey-Lee Barber saved her very best for last again. Stricken with Covid-19 after her success at the world championships in Oregon, the 30-year-old missed the opening ceremony and spent several days isolated from her teammates.

Her compatriot Mackenzie Little raised the bar with a personal best in the final of 64.27m. But Barber, who was cleared to compete late in the week, loves a challenge. She responded with her final throw to edge her teammate by 16cm to continue her success in major championships with gold.

“I’m not going to lie. It is nice to know I have the confidence I can keep lifting through a competition and I can find something similar in that last round,” she said.

Cassiel Rousseau dived superbly to claim gold in the men’s 10m platform, scoring massive points with his final entry in the morning qualification and bettering that with a superb effort to close out the competition. They were the best two dives of his life and afterwards, he turned his thoughts to France and family history.

“My grandfather won a gold medal at the Olympics in 1956, competing for France,” he said. “So hopefully I can at least try and get a medal (in Paris). Hopefully I will do him proud and did him proud today.”

Cyclist Georgia Baker also saved her best for the finish of the women’s road race, in the process claiming a third gold following triumphs in London in the team pursuit and points race.

As Australia’s cricket innings began, Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett also clinched a gold medal for the nation in beach volleyball. But the defence of the title was not without drama either.

McHugh, who was part of Australia’s winning combination on the Gold Coast, and Burnett dropped the first set and had to save two match points in the decider when winning 17-21, 21-17, 20-18 over Canada. Amid the tension, referee Giovanni Bake had to be replaced at 12-all in the deciding set, ostensibly due to baking in the sun.

“It is crazy. To come from two match points down is a surreal experience,” Burnett said. “This is why we play, for moments like this, feelings like this.”

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