Women’s Sport: Faultless Australia retain T20 World Cup on home soil

Australia have won their fifth T20 World Cup, after beating India by 85 runs in front of a packed MCG crowd. 

It was as dominant a display as we have come to expect from Australia, but have uncharacteristically failed to see on many an occasion in this tournament.

Looking to avenge their loss to India earlier in the first game of this year’s competition, Australia not only carried the expectation of being defending champions, but the weight of an 86,000 strong crowd, which encapsulated both the mood and spirit of a World Cup which has entertained from start to finish.

On International Women’s Day it was fitting that the game delivered such a crowd, which broke attendance records for not just women’s cricket, but women’s sport in general. With Australian superstar Ellyse Perry out injured for the final, it was another Perry- Katy, that stole the show this time round. The international music icon treated the crowd to pre and post match renditions of her iconic hits, but if it was the draw of her music that attracted large parts of the crowd initially, it was the heroics of Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney which kept their attention.

The two openers have been pivotal to Australia’s success in recent times and today it showed once again. Their partnership of 114 was both the highest in T20 World Cup history and only one short of the average World Cup final score across the six previous editions.

It was Healy who was the aggressor early on, as she so often is, whilst Mooney was happy to give the strike to her partner. Watching on from the stands, Healy’s husband Mitchell Starc must’ve been delighted as she raced to 50 from just 26 balls, the quickest of the competition.

The effortlessness and cleanness with which Healy dispatched the Indian attack, gives weight to the discussion that women’s cricket need not reduce boundary sizes. In total, she hit five sixes, on her way to 75 from 39 balls, before she was finally dismissed by Radha Yadav.

The wicket did little to dismantle the Aussies momentum however, as Mooney- sick of watching from the non-striker’s end, did her best to replicate Healy’s fierce hitting, and succeeded. Despite the wickets of Lanning and Gardner, Mooney was undeterred, smashing 78 not out from 54 balls, as Australia posted 184-4 from their 20 overs.

Perhaps the key for Australia this time round was their treatment of Poonam Yadav. The leg-spinner was unplayable earlier on in the competition, but could only muster one wicket this time round, finishing with figures of 1-30 from her four overs.

It was a daunting total for India no doubt, but with the likes of Shafali Verma in their ranks, anything still seemed possible. The 16 year old has established herself as perhaps the finest batter in T20 cricket and was more than capable of repeating Healy’s exploits.

It was seemingly all over before it began however, as Verma fell on just the third ball of the innings for 2, caught behind by Healy off the bowling off Schutt who carried on from where she finished off the semi-final.

Mandhana, Kaur and Rodrigues also fell cheaply, as India slumped to 30-4 and in truth, never looked in the game. Deepti Sharma top scored with 33 from 35 balls, but for a side that registered no half-centuries in the entire tournament, any reliance on the lower order to contribute runs was a big ask.

Schutt finished with 4-18 in total, as Australia bowled with immaculate length and never offered any glimmer of opportunity. For a bowling side without Ellyse Perry and Taylor Vlaeminck, this performance reiterated the strength in depth the home side have, and the extent to which they are ahead of their nearest competition.

Healy scooped the player of the match award, whilst Mooney was presented with the player of the tournament honours, with her 259 runs the most of any player ever in a T20 World Cup.

It was peculiar leading in today’s game that India did not start the match as favourites. Of course, an unbeaten tournament to that point including a win against the hosts should have commanded sufficient respect, yet there was ostensibly the sense that if Australia were to play their best, they were simply unbeatable.

They duly delivered, on the grandest of stages and cemented their position as not only the best team in women’s cricket, but arguably the best team in any sport, across all genders and all time-periods.

Sunday 8th March 2020 will forever be remembered as the game of women’s cricket which changed the world. It broke records, it broke hearts, but most of all it broke boundaries. Perhaps it was not a classic in conventional cricket terms. There have of course been other finals that ended in more tense circumstances. Yet, as the Indian wickets crumbled and the wave of Australian invincibility rose ever stronger, viewers were unequivocally aware that what they were watching was not just a demolition job, it was history.

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