WWT20: Australia beat England to claim fourth title
SUMMARY: Australia 106-2 (Gardner 33*, Lanning 28*) beat England 105 (Wyatt 43, Knight 25, Gardner 3-22, Wareham 2-11) by eight wickets
Australia have never lost to England in a cup final, and that record will now stay at least till the next world event in 2020. Meg Lanning’s side romped to their fourth World T20 crown with an eight-wicket vanquishing of England on the grandest stage of them all at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua.
As was the case four years ago in Bangladesh – when the sides last met in a World T20 final – England limped to 105. And remarkably, both times, Australia blasted the runs in 15.1 overs – albeit this time, it was on a slow surface. On the face of heavy dew, this completely negated England’s spin threat and run scoring was not really a bother.
Alyssa Healy, somewhat made up for multiple lapses behind the stumps, to set the tone for the chase with a 20-ball 22, including 12 off Anya Shrubsole’s first over. She finished the tournament as the leading run-getter; her 225 runs coming in one innings fewer than the next best. This also made her the undisputed choice for Player of the Tournament.
In many ways, Healy’s career-turnaround came in 2014 in Bangladesh, where Australia last won the World T20. Still a rookie far from assured of her place in the XI, it was her bristling knock at No. 7 in a tense semi-final chase against West Indies that put Australia in the final in the first place. Here in West Indies, four years on, she stamped her authority to emerge as one of the undisputed and feared ball-strikers in the women’s game.
Any chance England had of applying pressure on Australia lay in the Powerplay. But they ended up conceding 37 in exchange of Healy’s wicket, and had to pay the price for an underwhelming batting show. Ashleigh Gardner and Meg Lanning then built on the early tempo to seal the deal. Australia’s batting, in many ways, masked their fielding lapses that may have proved costly on another night – they let go as many as five catches.
Yet, that they found a way out to still restrict England was largely due to the efforts of 19-year old leg-spinner Georgia Wareham. Having begun senior cricket in men’s Division Three as a high school student, she graduated to the WBBL by playing for Melbourne Renegades. All the early experience was put to use under pressure after Wyatt began briskly early in the innings. She would top score with 43.
Wareham’s first touch in the final was a direct hit from mid-on to fell the in-form Amy Jones in the fifth over. Moving to her right quickly from mid-on, she swooped in and nailed a flat hit at the bowler’s end to offset two missed chances by Australia – first by Rachel Haynes at point and then by Healy – to reprieve Danielle Wyatt, who would top score with 43.
She nailed two further blows and was on a hat-trick in the 13th over by dismissing Lauren Winfield and Sophia Dunkley. Winfield was beaten by a flipper that crashed into the pad before hitting the bat; the wicket triggered by Lanning’s late decision to review an lbw decision. Off the next delivery, Dunkley was beaten in drift as the ball spun away to sneak through the gap between bat and pad to hit the stumps. Incredibly, this double-wicket burst came in the same over where Healy missed a stumping chance.
Heather Knight waged a lone battle, batting through pockets of resistance, but couldn’t get the final kick on the face of some superb death bowling by Australia. Her attempt to go over the top after plodding through a majority of her 28-ball stay that fetched 25 resulted in a chip to mid-off to give Gardner her second wicket. She would finish with figures of 3-22.
That wouldn’t be her only contribution of the night, though. Still needing to dig in to ensure Healy’s quick start wouldn’t be put to waste, Gardner rotated strike early and kept the runs ticking. This gave the slightly rusty Meg Lanning, who hadn’t yet hit top gear, time to play herself in.
With Australia needing 36, she finally cut loose by walloping Knight’s full toss for six. Then, she took the attack to Kirstie Gordon by hitting her for two maximums in the next over – getting to the pitch on both occasions to negate any bite off the pitch. The savage blow came off Shrubsole, the hero of last year’s World Cup final, to level the score before Lanning knocked it off with a bunt into the off side to give Australia their fourth title in their last five editions. The title was a silver lining in what has been a tough cricketing year for Australia. (ESPNCricinfo)