The Women's World T20 final was supposed to be a mega affair. The two most dominant teams in the women's game facing off each other in the final of the biggest tournament at international level. The backdrop was perfect for a modern day Shakespearean drama. Yet, when it all unfurled to the excited spectators, it turned out to be a drab one-sided contest that tilted firmly in Australia's way when the England skipper, Heather Knight, opted to ignore conventional wisdom and batted first on a surface laden with dew.
That Australia's batting could flourish later with help from the dew was the least of England's worries as they came out to bat against the Southern Stars' strong suit - their bowling. They crumbled to 64/4 which turned into 84/7 and 105/10 - the very same score they had managed to rack up in the loss four years ago in the World T20 final against the very same team.
The strength of the Aussie and England team lie in their strong domestic structure and the sheer number of matches they play in the Women's Big Bash League and the Kia Super League.
Since the last World T20 in 2016, the two sides played over 400 matches in domestic T20 games while none of the other teams have played over 222. At international level, however, all the World T20 teams played between 12 and 27 matches in between the 2016 and 2018 editions.
The words of Southern Stars' skipper, Meg Lanning, after the game reflect how the Aussies have grown after the disappointment at 2016 World T20 and 2017 ODI World Cup.
"The last two World Cups really hurt and we had to change a few things and move it forward. The group embraced it and it was a very satisfying win. The loss against India did not rock us - maybe a couple of years before it would have rocked us - but we were very calm," Lanning said.
As Australia stormed to their fourth Women's World T20 title, one couldn't help but agree that they were the team to beat in the tournament and the win was just a mere extension of their dominance in T20Is in 2018.
In seventeen games this year, the Southern Stars have won 15, a win/loss ratio of 7.5, which is way higher than that of the next best (India with 2.285). England have, on the other hand, won just nine of their fifteen matches.
It isn't just in overall numbers that the Aussies have dominated. Glance through the batting averages of sides this year and the Lanning-led outfit has completely dominated 2018 with their averages and strike rates. A team batting average of 32.76 is combined with a rollicking strike rate of 130.39, easily making them the most formidable batting unit in the shortest format of the game this year.
A lot of that was evident with the individual contributions with the bat this year. Aside from Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy, Australia have Rachel Haynes, who barely batted in World T20, who is at the top of the run-charts this year.
The depth and strength in their batting, as against other teams, is evident when you see four Australian names in the list of top 10 run-scorers for this year. That the fourth in the list, Alyssa Healy, dominated the World T20 and ended up as the highest run-scorer in the tournament is perhaps enough evidence to show why they were always the best batting unit in the competition.
Even in the World T20, there were three Aussie batters in the top 10 list of run-scorers, second best to India, who had four names in the chart. Healy walked away with the Player of the Tournament award with 225 runs at 56.25.
But batting isn't Australia's strong suit. Their strength lies in the enviable bowling attack that ran amok this tournament and led them to a win. That their solo loss came against India's batting might and it was not a surprise as if you can fight off the Southern Stars' bowlers, a major part of the battle is won.
In T20Is this year, the Aussies have 118 wickets at 17.27, an average second-best only to Bangladesh, who were excellent this year. Combine it with a strike rate of 16.6 - the best among all teams at the World T20 - and an economy of 6.21 and you know the Aussie women have some incredible bowlers.
Ashleigh Gardner, Megan Schutt, Delissa Kimmince and Ellyse Perry were among the top fifteen bowlers in 2018. Three of them have a strike rate less than 20 this year and three of them were in the list of top five wicket-takers in the recently concluded tournament.
The best of them, Schutt and Gardner, topped the wicket-takers chart in the tournament but once again it was a continuation of their performances through the year.
As Australia bask in the glory of their incredible fourth World T20 title, it must be said that they had laid the stepping stones way earlier. With Women's Big Bash League hardening up the girls, no International challenge is tough enough for them and it showed in their comprehensive win in the final against another team of nearly equal strength.
The bad news for the rest of the world is the age of this Australian XI. The majority have several tournaments ahead of them:
— hypocaust (@_hypocaust) November 25, 2018
Above all this, the age of these Australian Southern Stars' team would make you scoff. Only one of them is above 30 and the rest are peaking in their careers, which is likely to mean another decade of domination.
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