Before the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup final on Sunday, various participants had called it the “biggest game” ever in women’s cricket. In literal terms that turned out to be true, with a crowd of 86,174 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground coming close to the all-time record for women’s sport of 90,185. The size of the occasion also decided the result: Australia rose to it, India were overwhelmed by it.
After Australia won the toss, openers Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney lit up the MCG to score at 10 runs per over through a partnership of 115. Australia ended up with 184 at four wickets down, before India lost big-hitting opener Shafali Verma in the first over of their innings before subsiding to 99 all out.
Mooney batted through to top-score with 78, but it was Healy who grabbed the match in the space of 11.4 overs with her 75. Coming into the tournament, Healy’s form had been questioned for a run of low scores in a warm-up series. Those around the team backed her as a big-game player.
There will be no bigger game for her than this. Cricket’s coliseum, that crowd, a global final, the women’s game on centre stage. With the noise rolling down in waves off the stands, Healy produced the innings of her life in the fearless way that has become her standard.
India were contrarily nervous. Off-spinner Deepti Sharma started the match with three full tosses, though only one was punished. Healy placed her fourth ball through gully for four, then hit the fifth at cover where Verma dropped a fast but straightforward catch.
Healy shrugs off close calls as a side-effect of her game. She drove the next delivery through cover, and had 28 off 14 balls before Mooney’s first boundary of the night. Consecutive sixes down the ground from Rajeshwari Gayakwad’s spin took Healy to the brink of a half-century, then she took three sixes in a row from seamer Shikha Pandey: a pull, a straight clout, then a clean cover drive.
“I just said: ‘That’s an outrageous shot. You’re kidding me, aren’t you?’” reported Mooney on her response as Healy beamed a smile around the MCG. Healy finished on 75 from 39 balls, keeping a strike rate near 200, before hitting to long-on to make this Radha Yadav’s 24th consecutive wicket-taking match, a record in this format.
At 115 for none with eight overs to come, Australia could have gone past 200, but after Healy departed Deepti had Meg Lanning caught for 16 and Ashleigh Gardner stumped for two, before Rachael Haynes pulled Poonam Yadav into her own stumps for four. Mooney carried on with boundaries from scoop and sweep as well as her favoured cover drive on her way to 78 from 54.
ndia’s best chance relied on a fast start, but after dropping that catch Verma had dropped her head at every Healy boundary, kicking the ground or turning her back on the pitch. Out of sorts, she lofted her first ball high for two, then almost immediately nicked Megan Schutt from back of a length. Standing up to the stumps against the seamer for a brilliant reflex catch was Healy.
The next blow was literal, with Taniya Bhatia concussed after edging a sweep shot into her head. From there Australia swarmed, cutting off everything in the field. Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, and Veda Krishnamurthy all fell trying to clear mid-off. Captain Harmanpreet Kaur nailed a sweep shot, but Gardner motored around and dodged an incoming teammate to save six and take the running catch.
Sharma top-scored with 33, while 16-year-old Richa Ghosh was not overawed as the concussion substitute in making 18 at a run a ball. But the catches kept coming. Schutt cleaned up with four for 18, Jess Jonassen three for 20, to give Australia a fifth global T20 title out of seven tournaments. Lanning, their captain, called it “the complete performance” after Thursday’s fraught semi-final day.
“There were a lot of nerves around in terms of the weather,” she said of Thursday. “To get a game in there was amazing. We keep thinking about it and talking about it. It poured for the next two hours after we left the field. We just got a bit of luck, and we felt like we hadn’t had much throughout the tournament.
“To come through today with probably the least stressful game of the whole tournament was just amazing. Everybody was on, and in the warm-up you could just tell. This group always performs on the big stage, and I thought we saw that tonight.” (Courtesy The Guardian)