To be honest, the grand finale was a high-intensity cricket game. The pressure was immense, and Australia demonstrated their skills and ability to handle big-match situations, as this was their seventh consecutive final. Consequently, they emerged victorious, securing their sixth T20 World Cup title, and third consecutive win.
If anyone needed further proof that the Australian women’s cricket team is the best on the planet, it was delivered on the biggest stage. Despite scoring only 156, Australia made it seem like they had posted 180, and their bowlers held strong against a late onslaught from Laura Wolvaardt, who threatened to snatch the game away from them.
With 30 balls remaining, South Africa required 59 runs, and Wolvaardt’s graceful shots had the packed Newlands crowd on their feet. However, she ultimately fell victim to a full delivery from Megan Schutt, and was dismissed lbw. As a result, South African hopes were dashed, Wolvaardt left the field in tears, and the stadium fell silent after the boisterous applause.
Despite falling just short, Sune Luus and her team had accomplished something that no other senior South African team, male or female, had ever done before: compete in a world final. It was a bittersweet moment for the team.
Dangerous Healy falls early
Four overs in, this seemed a proper arm-wrestle with neither side catching the game by the scruff of its neck. The first signs of drama, that wouldn’t abate for the rest of the evening, came in the fifth over when Alyssa Healy bludgeoned a boundary down the ground, and then saw Marizanne Kapp roar with her wicket to finish the over. That wicket – brought about by spongy bounce that had Healy slicing an attempted cut to cover – laid down a marker: that hit-the-deck stuff was going to be harder to hit than fuller deliveries. Shabnim Ismail then closed off the first six overs with a maiden to have Australia 36 for 1, their slowest powerplay of the tournament.
Ashleigh Gardner revs up
Sent in ahead of Meg Lanning, Ashleigh Gardner offset any pressure there may have been on Australia with a fierce counterattack. Two back-to-back fours off left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba were followed by back-to-back sixes off Nadine de Klerk, shots that were possible courtesy outstanding footwork and a solid hitting base that allowed her to get underneath proper length deliveries. The attack put the pressure right back on South Africa. And just when Australia were beginning to exert their dominance, Chloe Tryon deceived Gardner in flight to have her caught at long-off for a rampaging 21-ball 29. At 82 for 2 in the 12th, Australia were still in control.
Mooney keeps calm, bats through
It didn’t take long for Beth Mooney to recalibrate her approach. This wasn’t a surface where she could fearlessly belt the ball. Manufacturing shots wasn’t easy due to the slowness; this was the same deck on which both semi-finals were played. But she quietly slipped into the role of an accumulator, allowing the others to take charge, without allowing dot-ball pressure to creep up. As her innings progressed, Mooney manipulated the fields expertly. Traps set for the scoop at short fine leg were just traps, as Mooney reverse-scooped over vacant short third in picking crucial boundaries to ensure Australia didn’t lose momentum.
Ellyse Perry, Grace Harris and Lanning fed off this confidence, knowing they had insurance in the form of Mooney, to play their shots. While Ismail returned to pick up two wickets in the final over and concede just two off her last four deliveries, Australia had put up a formidable score. Mooney finished with an unbeaten 53-ball 74, her second straight half-century in a world tournament final.
South Africa’s slow powerplay
South Africa needed a big powerplay to allay some of their nerves that had been a constant feature, and understandably so, right through the game. They limped to 22 for the loss of Tazmin Brits in the powerplay, and allowed stage fright to gnaw at them slowly. It was a bizarre passage too. South Africa had an lbw reprieve, and there were mis-hits, tight bowling and uncharacteristic misfields. The asking rate jumped past 10 and the heat was on.
The run-out that shouldn’t have been
Boundaries had been a rarity in the first six overs, but Wolvaardt’s first two were delightful. The hit down the ground off Darcie Brown as she erred on the fuller side was an on-drive out of the top drawer, as was her skip down the pitch while moving leg side of the ball to wallop an inside-out six off Jess Jonassen. But just when South Africa appeared to be wresting back some momentum, they lost Kapp to a slog and Luus to a run-out, with both her and Wolvaardt nearly stranded at the bowler’s end. At 54 for 3 in the 11th over, their target seemed many moons away.
South Africa believe through Wolvaardt
Wolvaardt had to now put behind her the run out gaffe, and she did so admirably. Without playing a shot in anger, she kept reeling off boundaries, brought up her half-century off 43 balls with one of the most pleasing cover drives, and brought South Africa to within 59 runs of victory with 30 balls left. In Tryon, she had a batter who could bash the ball. The pair put together 55 in 37 balls to keep South Africa’s hopes alive, before they both fell in successive overs to all but extinguish their hopes.
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