MELBOURNE: A rampant Australia emphatically swept to their fifth women’s Twenty20 World Cup title yesterday, crushing India by 85 runs in front of more than 86,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Alyssa Healy smashed a quick-fire 75 and Beth Mooney an unbeaten 78 as the defending champions plundered an ominous 184 for four — the highest score ever in a women’s T20 final. India could only manage 99 all out in reply to end a 17-day tournament that reinforced Australia’s dominance, having now won five of the seven World Cups held.
“I’m just really proud of this group of players,” said Australian skipper Meg Lanning. “There was a lot of expectation on us, inside and out. Definitely some tough times in there, but we stuck with each other, had each other’s backs.
“It’s been massive, 86,000 people at the MCG, I’ve never seen it before and didn’t think I’d be part of it in the middle,” she added. The blockbuster showdown between the world’s top-ranked team and fast-improving India was billed as the biggest in women’s cricket history.
A #FilltheMCG campaign was launched to help bring the sport to a new generation and fans responded with 86,174 attending, despite fears about the deadly coronavirus that has seen other global sporting events cancelled or played behind closed doors. They were targeting the official world record for a women’s sporting fixture — set at the 1999 football World Cup final when 90,185 watched the United States beat China in California — but fell just short.
It was nevertheless a record crowd for a women’s cricket game helped by the lure of pop superstar Katy Perry, who performed before and after the game. Australia came into their sixth successive final as heavy favourites, in contrast to India who were playing their first decider. India had upset Lanning’s team in the opening game of the tournament, but they never got a look in yesterday. “I still have a lot of faith in my team,” said disappointed Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur.
“We need to focus, especially in fielding. But I trust this team. It’s part of the game, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You have to keep learning.”
After Australia won the toss, Healy showed her intent with a boundary off Deepti Sharma’s first ball. She smacked two more in an eventful opening over which also saw her dropped by Shafali Verma. Opening partner Mooney also had an early let-off, with Rajeshwari Gayakwad putting down a caught and bowled chance when she was on eight.
India was jittery and an aggressive Healy smashed two big sixes in succession off Gayakwad before bringing up her 12th T20 half-century. They reached 91 without loss at the halfway mark, with Healy then hitting three consecutive sixes off Shikha Pandey. Her luck finally ran out going for another big one, caught for 75 from just 39 balls. At the other end, player-of-the-tournament Mooney quietly went about her business to bring up her ninth T20 half-century before three late wickets fell.
HORROR START FOR INDIA
India got off to a horror start with explosive 16-year-old opener Verma, who has used the tournament to announce herself, out for two. Taniya Bhatia retired hurt after being hit on the helmet before Jemimah Rodrigues fell without scoring. India were in big trouble at 32 for four after Smriti Mandhana and Kaur both went cheaply. Sharma hit a battling 33 but it was never going to be enough as Megan Schutt took 4-18.
It capped an engrossing final that Cricket Australia chief Kevin Roberts said reflected the sport’s growing popularity, while a boost in prize money strengthened a push for gender equality. The International Cricket Council bumped up the tournament prize pool by 320 percent from the 2018 event, but it still fell short of what the men receive. To counter that, CA pledged a further $US600,000 to ensure parity if Australia won. – AFP