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Aussies plays in T20 gold medal-winning team despite pre-game Covid positive

Australia have beaten India to add women’s T20 gold to their already bursting trophy cabinet on a drama-charged Commonwealth Games finale overshadowed by a COVID-19 controversy.

Australia held on to win by nine runs despite a brilliant knock by Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, adding Commonwealth gold to World T20 and ODI success for this all-conquering side.

Ash Gardner, the hero with the bat when Australia beat India to open the tournament, this time starred with the ball, taking 3-16 off three overs – including the match-turning wicket of Kaur.

But the win was overshadowed by drama before a ball was bowled.

The toss was delayed as officials discussed whether allrounder Tahlia McGrath would be allowed to play, having returned a positive COVID-19 test.

McGrath, one of Australia’s best players all tournament, presented to team officials with mild symptoms on Sunday morning and returned a subsequent positive test.

Despite this, she was cleared to play, and was forced sit away from her teammates and wear a mask while she waited to bat.

Tahlia McGrath of Team Australia poses after being presented with a Gold Medal during the Cricket T20 - Gold Medal match between Team Australia and Team India on day ten of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Edgbaston on August 07, 2022 on the Birmingham, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Tahlia McGrath. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

She also could not celebrate with her teammates after taking a catch.

Had the match been played in Australia, McGrath would have been forced to sit out and isolate for seven days, highlighting the ludicrous inconsistencies in COVID-19 policies.

Her impact on the game was minimal, but was none the less the biggest talking point at Edgbaston.

Cricket Australia said in a statement:

“Cricket Australia (CA) can confirm that cricketer Tahlia McGrath has returned a positive test for Covid-19. CGA clinical staff have consulted with the Commonwealth Games Federation RACEG (Results Analysis Clinical Expert Group) team and match officials, and McGrath is taking part in today’s final against India.

“McGrath presented to team management with mild symptoms on Sunday and subsequently returned the positive test. She was named in the starting XI at the toss and the International Cricket Council (ICC) approved her participation in the final.

“In consultation with the CGF and the ICC, CGA and Cricket Australia medical staff have implemented a range of comprehensive protocols which will be observed throughout the game and for post-match activity, to minimise the risk of transmission to all players and officials.

“The CGA has maintained a comprehensive Covid-19 risk mitigation strategy for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, with testing protocols over and above those required by the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee.”

After winning the toss and opting to bat, Alyssa Healy again failed to fire, out lbw for seven, but skipper Meg Lanning joined Beth Mooney for a 74-run partnership off just 47 deliveries.

Australia were looking comfortable, before a double piece of brilliance from Radha Yadav dragged India back into the contest.

First Yadav flicked the ball between her legs to catch Lanning short of her ground for 36 after backing up to far, before she plucked a diving catch off McGrath to dismiss the Australian No.4 in the next over.

Gardner pounded a quick-fire 25, but it was Mooney (61 off 41) who was holding the innings together before she was dismissed by a brilliant Deepti Sharma catch.

Sharma stuck out a hand to take a one-handed stunner.

After staring down 180-plus, Australia fell away towards the end and managed just 11 runs off the final two overs and reached 8-161.

India smacked 12 runs off the first over in reply but lost two quick wickets, with Darcie Brown bowling Smriti Mandhana behind her legs before Shafali Verma wasted her extra life to fall for 11.

But enter Harmanpreet Kaur, the Indian skipper looking like she would carry India to the gold medal on her own as she struck a brilliant 65 off 43 balls before holing out in the deep as Gardner picked up two wickets in two balls.

A Grace Harris direct hit helped stymie India as they were left needing 11 runs off the final over, but it only lasted three balls as Jess Jonassen claimed the final wicket to spark wild celebrations.

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