Here's a look at Australia's road to the record fifth ICC Women's T20 World Cup title
The tournament started on a disappointing note for hosts Australia but it finished on a historic note for Meg Lanning and Co as they clinched the record fifth T20 World Cup title. They lost their first match of the campaign to India but interestingly, even the history was scripted by the Australian team with a win over India by 85 runs in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Club which witnessed a strong crowd of 86,174 people.
Their journey to the final and eventually to the title wasn't as smooth as it was expected. Australia were made to work hard for every win but the most important thing is how you end and not how you begin. We take a look at Australia's road to the record fifth T20 World Cup title.
India stun defending champions in lung-opener
Shafali Verma at the top of the order flayed seamer Megan Schutt for four boundaries in the fourth over and India were on their way, bludgeoning Australia’s indomitable armour, one blow at a time.
India lost their openers soon after and a mid-innings collapse ensued. The ‘Women in Blue’ finished their innings with a below-par 132/4. Australia and their fans must have felt that the total was well within the reach of their star-studded batting order, consisting of the likes of captain Meg Lanning, World No 1 batswoman in women’s T20Is, Alyssa Healy, and arguably the most famous female cricketer of our times, all-rounder Ellyse Perry. Moreover, all three are ranked in the top five of the Women’s T20Is player rankings for best batswomen.
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) February 21, 2020
However, India’s Poonam Yadav judiciously spun a web with her wily leg-spin bowling to handcuff the Australian batswomen. She gave her deliveries ample flight, but no pace for the batter to work with. The required run-rate had climbed up and the Aussies found themselves invariably committing errors. They would step down the pitch in a bid to smack the ball, only to lose it in its flight and find their stumps being rattled by the Indian wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia. Barring Healy, who scored 51 off 35 deliveries at the top of the order, and Ashleigh Gardner — 34 off 36 deliveries — no Australian batswoman could reach double figures. India defended their modest total by a healthy margin of 17 runs to shake up the predicted passage of play for the tournament.
Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes save the day against Sri Lanka
Australia were the defending champions coming into the tournament. To lose their opening match from a winning position was nothing short of a rude shock for Meg Lanning and Co. They had relatively easier matches to look forward to, against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, before going up against New Zealand.
However, the next game, Australia struggled again while chasing a below-par 123 for the win against Sri Lanka. Only in the fourth over of their innings, Australia were 10/3, before Rachael Haynes and Lanning combined well to rescue their team out of the quagmire. Haynes top-scored for the team, scoring 60 off 47 deliveries. By the time she was dismissed, early in the 18th over, Australia were 105/4. They won by five wickets, but the just three balls remaining in their innings conveyed plenty about the fight that Sri Lanka had brought on with their bowling.
Australia then breezed past Bangladesh, winning the match by a massive 86 runs to restore some semblance of normalcy about their World Cup campaign. However, with India having qualified for the semi-finals from Group A, Australia’s next match against New Zealand was a virtual knockout for a place in the semis.
After sealing spot in semi-finals, rain threatens to end Australia's campaign
The trans-Tasman derby has always been an enticing affair and it was so this time too, Australia managing to eke out a seven-run win and make the semis, where they would face South Africa. However, some bad news was looming on the horizon for Australia. Perry was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament, after sustaining a hamstring injury during the match against the White Ferns.
The semi-final almost didn’t happen, as weather forecast in Sydney had predicted heavy rainfall all through the day. The first semi-final, between India and England, had been washed out and India went through by virtue of having topped their Group. If the second semi-final had been abandoned too, South Africa would have gone through to the final for they had finished at the top of Group B. However, as the day wore on, the rain lightened to a drizzle, sending the ground staff in a tizzy as they hurriedly went about getting the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) pitch ready for the match. Soon after, Healy and Beth Mooney took the crease for Australia. The second semi-final was underway.
Bowlers save the day for Australia after batswomen put up below-par score
The Australian batswomen were hard-pressed for runs as the South African frontline seamers, namely Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka bowled a penetrating line and length. The Australian captain Lanning, once again, rescued her team out of the logjam, steering the Australian batting effort through the middle-overs with her run-a-ball 49. For South Africa, right-arm medium bowler Nadine de Clerk had returned with figures of 3/19 and ensured that Australia could manage only 134/5 on the board.
A rain interruption followed and the target for the Proteas was revised to 98 from 13 overs. The Australians, led by right-arm medium bowler Schutt, bowled with incisiveness and staved off a late charge from Laura Wolvaardt, who scored 41 off 27 deliveries, to win by a mere five runs (D/L method) and advance to the final, where they played against India.
Record fifth T20 World Cup title win
A lot was expected from the Indian side in the final but the big occasion at the MCG proved to be too big a hurdle for Harmanpreet Kaur and Co. There was Katy Perry, there were more than 86,000 people in the stands and the final became a game about keeping the nerves in check. And on such an occasion, Australia, a team with multiple titles, prevailed over India, who were playing their maiden final.
Women's #T20WorldCup winners:
On another level. pic.twitter.com/CNQ5zvJCxG
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) March 8, 2020
Australia won the all-important toss and opted to bat. India spinner Deepti Sharma had a horrific start to the match as she gave away 14 runs in the first over with Shafali dropping Alyssa Healy in the covers. The tone for the match was set. Openers Healy and Beth Mooney slammed 75 and 78 respectively as Australian batters tormented Indian bowlers with a streak of offensive shots. India tried to pull things back a little with Deepti taking two wickets in the 17th over but it was too late by then. Australia finished 20 overs with 184/4 on the board. Pacer Shikha Pandey gave away 52 runs in her four overs.
In reply, India got off to another poor start as hard-hitting Shafali got out in the first over. Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet were all dismissed inside the powerplay. And while Deepti helped India recover with a cautious 33, wickets kept falling from the other and eventually India were bowled out for 99, handing Australia a 85-run win in the final. Healy was named the Player of the Match for her quick-fire 75.
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