In the 17th over of India’s innings, Richa Ghosh slogged a ball from Nicola Carey out towards Delissa Kimmince, patrolling the boundary at deep midwicket. If the game had been on the line, Kimmince might well have gone for the catch… and the way Australia were catching she would probably have made it too. But she didn’t bother – there was no point – the game was already won, and instead she hung back to take the ball on the bounce as the Indians ran an irrelevant single.
The play summed up the whole of the Indian reply to Australia’s mammoth 184, which was over almost as soon as it had begun, with Shafali Verma edging Megan Schutt to Alyssa Healy for 2 off the third ball. Without the Shafali “kick-start” the Indian innings quickly wilted. Taniya Bhatia retired hurt and Jemimah Rodrigues holed-out for a duck in the following over. While Harmanpreet remained, there was hope I guess, but her departure in the 6th over was not the beginning of the end… it was the end of the end.
From there, India played for survival, knocking out a steady 4 or 5-an-over when they needed 10… which quickly became 11… which quickly became the 25 they needed when Kimmince let that catch go by. Australia’s victory was a mere formality, as the crowd resorted to Mexican Waves to keep themselves entertained.
Proceedings at the MCG had begun a couple of hours previously with Katy Perry belting out the opening ceremony with her anthems to empowerment and inclusivity, Roar and Firework – two songs which could not have been more appropriate for this game on this International Women’s Day.
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It felt like no one heard the lyrics to Firework as a call to arms more than Alyssa Healy, who smashed five 6s and seven 4s on her way to 75 off 39 balls, opening the innings with Beth Mooney. Mooney ended up scoring more runs (78 off 54) and was later elected Player of the Tournament by the distinguished panel of judges (which included CRICKETher editor Raf Nicholson) but today she was outshone by Healy nonetheless – she gave the Aussie’s the start that the Indians didn’t get from Shafali – boom, boom, boom; even brighter than the moon, moon, Moon…ey!
Could it have been any other way? Healy and Mooney were both dropped early on; but the thing with Australia’s batting line-up is that it is so long that even those two wickets might not have made any difference – those runs could just as easily have been scored by Lanning, Haynes and Gardner. Australia in this tournament have been a juggernaut with the bat, carrying a slightly weaker bowling lineup to yet another Twenty20 World Cup trophy.
Got a couple of bob to spare? Put it on the Aussies to win the next one too.
I think what we saw here was, basically, a very experienced and capable Australian batting line having a good day out, and a much less experienced Indian side having a bad day at the office and crumbling a bit under pressure. Plan A didn’t work for India and there wasn’t much of a plan B to fall back on unfortunately.
Healy and Mooney were both sublime, no doubt. Both produced one of the finest T20 innings you could hope to see, and to have these both together in a final gave whoever the opposition was, very little chance. The contrast between the two was beautiful as well. I almost prefer Mooney’s snappy, efficient, sure-footed style over the crashing whirlwind of Healy’s bat. Having said, that, one enables the other and you probably can’t have one without the other. But I think India did quite a lot to make it easier for them both.
The fielding was not great, to start; catches were dropped, but the main culprit was India not learning from Australia’s problems in match one of the tournament. The Aussies had bowled too full that day and India did this in extremis, with Sharma not pitching many early on and Pandey also particularly guilty, pitching in the slot and going the distance, not offering any control. Kaur obviously felt she couldn’t use any other bowlers when a sixth and maybe even a seventh was desperately needed. All she did was change the order in which the 5 usual suspects bowled. Sharma finished quite well to pull her figures back a bit. But when Poonam Yadav only took 1 wicket and went at 7.5 per over it just looked like India had nowhere else to turn.
Australia got some early breakthroughs with the ball and bowled well up top. But too many Indian players didn’t give themselves a proper chance, trying to hit their way out of trouble without having a look first. You might argue they had to really get a move on, but there were a few bad shot selections in there. In the end, with the match effectively over after about 6 or 7 overs, and certainly after the 12th, you probably have to say that it was an even bigger defeat for them than England suffered in 2018. Not that England would necessarily have done much better here, but they might have at least adjusted a bit more.
When even the Aussies are saying they’ve been lucky, you really know they have been. To lose the first group match, struggle against SL, escape in the way they did against NZ and SA, and somehow play a semi a couple of hours after no play had been possible due to rain and they would have been out if they hadn’t; to then go on and win the thing after beating the form team of the tournament- it was pretty fortunate. So, it seems strange to say that they deserved to win it, but they certainly deserved to win the final having got there. India need to pick themselves up, but there are plenty of reasons to be positive. They have established themselves among the top international sides now and if the women’s IPL can finally get up and running, these players will get the kind of tournament playing experience they need to compete better in those tough moments. This young side can hopefully shrug off this disappointment and avoid the mental scarring that’s blighted a few players and teams over recent times. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
Australia are sure to be favourites for the next world T20, but I think we’ve seen here an increase in the number of possible ways that they can be beaten, and look vulnerable. If they get to a final they’re odds on to win, at the moment, but there is always the chance of an early exit before that stage.
Correction, Para 3 – I mean when Ind played Aus in the group stage and not “match one”, sorry.
I was right the first time. D’Oh!
One felt beforehand that for India to win they needed a fair few things to fall into place. Very little did, to the extent that I honestly thought the match was done after the first over, and probably the fifth ball when Verma dropped Healy.
Australia are no mugs, they will have sensed India’s nerves and known it might well only have taken an early salvo to blow them away. Healy is the perfect weapon in that scenario, and of course no team is as stacked in the batting as Aus, meaning she could do what she did without the fear that must stalk the Indian top order – that those who follow cannot finish a task that doesn’t start well.
Australia were close to perfection. Even a team as good as they are won’t have many days like that. Would England have given them a better contest? I’d like to think so, and I hope we wouldn’t have been so stricken as the Indians, but I wonder if we didn’t dodge a bullet thanks to Thursday’s rain…