Women’s cricket: Aussies profit from dew factor to reclaim T20 crown
Australia reairmed their hegemony in the T20 format with an easy, if lawed, defeat of England in Antigua.
Having won 11 of their 12 Twenty20 internationals this year prior to the tournament in the Caribbean, Australia came in as favourites, as they usually do. They beat the holders, West Indies, in the semi-inals, and England in the final both emphatically. They have reached the last ive World T20 inals, winning four of them, and with home advantage at the next staging in early 2020, they will be hard to beat once more.
The Australians’ victory was their third in a World T20 inal over England, which can only have added to the euphoria Meg Lanning and her side felt. By a strange statistical quirk, in the last major inal where the two sides met, in Bangladesh in 2014, England made exactly the same total batting irst, a paltry 105. Equally coincidentally, Australia chased down their target of exactly the same number of overs, 15.1, to win with what is a long time to spare in this format. Although they would not admit it publicly, England were left to rue their decision to bat first, thereby condemning their bowlers to having to operate with what Danni Wyatt, their opening batsman, described as a “wringing wet” ball. Defending 105 with a dry ball would probably have made no diference to the result, but had England been chasing, it would have been the Aussies’ misfortune to bowl with the proverbial bar of soap, which had to be changed several times by the umpires.
England should have taken more note of the Indians’ complaints about the severity of the dew in their semi-inal, when they had also elected to bat first with an 8pm start. The dew only really became a problem after 9.30pm when England (like India) started ielding. For all the success of the tournament, the first standalone Women’s World T20 of the six staged, it was a shame that the ICC did not start the inal earlier than 8pm to counter the dew. A 6pm start on what was a Saturday would also have led to higher viewing figures in the UK, where the fi nal began at midnight GMT. Several well-known Caribbean bands were booked to perform at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium after the fi nal (which was one reason the tickets all sold out), but with an 8pm start, it was after 11pm before they even started playing. Postmatch press conferences were still going long after midnight.
Mark Robinson, the England coach, professed that it had been a “tough ride” for his players. He justifi ably felt that it was a big advantage to Australia and India to have played their group games in Guyana, where batting conditions were much better than St Lucia. Australia got plenty of runs under their belt before the knockout phase, while England were a little short in that department. The same applied to West Indies, who were likewise St Lucia-based. Their dismissal for just 71 in the semi-fi nal against Australia was a major anti-climax.
Indeed, what was disappointing generally was the one-sidedness of games, with crushing victories the norm. Just one match in the entire tournament, the England v West Indies group game, was at all close, going thrillingly as it did to the last over. In the semis and final, the victory margins were 71 runs and eight wickets (twice). This remains a key difference to the men’s game.
Some outstanding individual efforts were recorded, notably by Alyssa Healy (225 runs at an average of 56) of Australia and Harmanpreet Kaur (183 at 45) of India, while young talent announced itself on the big stage. Healy, 28, who won player of the tournament, hammered the fastest fifty in a Women’s World T20, off 21 balls against Ireland, and boasted a strike-rate of 144. Without her, Australia were beatable, as India showed in the group game when Healy could not bat after suffering mild concussion in an onfield collision.
Deandra Dottin of West Indies was statistically the leading allrounder, with 121 runs and 10 wickets, although Ellyse Perry of Australia, with 60 runs and nine wickets, outperformed her in the semi-final.
Although women’s teams want quick pitches, the spinners enjoyed the slow Caribbean surfaces. For England, the Scottish newcomer Kirstie Gordon, 21, claimed eight wickets, while another left-arm spinner, Sophie Ecclestone, 19, impressed throughout with her loop and control, notably in the fi nal. Another teenager, Australia’s Georgia Wareham, had a wonderful fi nal, taking 2 for 11 from three overs with her wrist-spin, as well as running out Amy Jones with a direct hit.
The tournament certainly caught the imagination of the Caribbean peoples, even if the matches were one-sided and West Indies failed to retain the trophy as they hoped. All 23 matches were broadcast live, and while viewing fi gures are never going to stand comparison to the men’s game, the increasing popularity of women’s cricket is clear. Indeed, the future looks bright.