Opening batter Beth Mooney anchored the Australian innings with an unbeaten 74 in a total of 156 for six in the women's T20 World Cup final against South Africa on Sunday.
With South Africa allowed only three fielders outside the circle in the final over because of a slow over rate, Mooney hit the first two balls from Shabnim Ismail for six and four to give the defending champions hope of a high-scoring finish.
But Ismail claimed two wickets with successive balls to peg back Australia at Newlands in Cape Town.
Alyssa Healy and Mooney made a relatively sedate start, scoring 25 off the first four overs, before both batters hit boundaries off Marizanne Kapp in the fifth over.
But Healy mistimed a forcing back foot shot off the last ball of Kapp's over and was caught at mid-off for 18.
Gardner, promoted to number three, hit successive boundaries off left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba and successive sixes off medium-pacer Nadine de Klerk in the following over.
But Gardner was out for 29 off 21 balls when she lofted left-arm spinner Chloe Tryon high to long-off where South African captain Sune Luus held the catch.
The match was played on the same pitch which produced two close semi-final matches in which Australia beat India and South Africa defeated England. The first innings in those matches yielded 172 and 164 runs respectively.