Fearless Aussies seize moment to capture fifth T20 crown
Clinical. Dominant. Completely fearless.
The Australian women's cricket team has beaten India by 85 runs to be crowned the T20 World Cup champions in front of a record-breaking 86,174 crowd at the MCG.
In a tournament where the Aussies were plagued by form slumps, injuries and extensive travel, they saved their comprehensive best till last.
With explosive hitting that derailed the Indian bowlers, to quick running between wickets that pressured the field, to then taking the ball and swarming the Indian batters, the green and gold completely dominated.
On a memorable day for women's sport - and played on International Women's Day - the key to winning this game was always going to be about which team adjusted to the noise and pressure of the big stage the quickest.
That team was Australia: setting India an ominous 185 for victory, India crumpled in their run chase, being bowled out in the final over for only 99 runs.
Aussie openers Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney set the team's aggressive, unapologetic intent early with Healy hitting Deepti Sharma's first ball for a four.
With her husband, Aussie quick Mitchell Starc, watching from the stands after he'd flown back early from the men's ODI tour of South Africa, Healy made India pay for dropping her in the first over: whacking 75 runs off 39 balls, including seven fours and five sixes.
Three of those five sixes came off consecutive Shikha Pandey balls, which had the crowd on its feet in awe of her power hitting.
But it was her partner, Mooney, who top-scored, after settling into her innings with patience, using quick singles before she similarly got into the big hits.
Mooney brought up her third half-century for the tournament by placing her shots carefully and running lightning quick between the stumps and she was unbeaten on 78 (54), an innings that included 10 fours.
Learning the lessons:
What a difference a fortnight makes. When these two teams met on the opening game of the tournament on February 21 at Sydney Showground, it was India who prevailed by 17 runs, after their spinners ripped through the Aussies.
After that loss, coach Matthew Mott sent a note around to his players telling them: "Head's up, we've still got plenty to play for in this tournament … it's not terminal."
It was just what they needed to hear, while also giving them plenty of lessons to learn.
Whereas, India bowled out the Aussies for 115 runs in game one, this time around, Australia were 0/115 by the 12th over.
The Australians also adjusted to the ultra-slow spin of Poonam Yadav, who'd bamboozled them in the opening game with her figures of 4/19.
Yadav failed to take any wickets until her penultimate ball, when she bowled Rachael Haynes for four and she finished with 1/30.
The best bowler for India was Sharma, who managed to slow Australia's rampant run scoring by taking the wickets of Australian captain Meg Lanning (16 from 15 balls) and Ash Gardner (2 from 3) in the one over late in the innings.
India crumpled with the bat:
Inswinger Megan Schutt set the tone by taking the wicket of explosive teenager Shafali Verma in the opening over.
This wicket was critical: Verma came into the game having scored 47, 46, 39 and 29 from her four World Cup innings, but Schutt had her caught behind for 2. The 16-year-old was livid with herself, she threw her head back and whacked her bat hard down onto her pad, but there was not a lot she could do against the swinging ball.
Jess Jonassen took a wicket the next over and Sophie Molineux struck with her first ball and Australia had India on the ropes at 4/32 by the end of the powerplay.
The Aussie fielders kept throwing themselves at the boundary line preventing four after four, making it all that much harder.
Schutt's fourth wicket for the game, having tailender Poonam Yadav caught by Ash Gardner, made her the leading wicket-taker for the tournament with 13 scalps.
What a crowd:
This match was played in front of a crowd of more than 86,000, which set a new Australian record for the highest attendance at a standalone women's sporting event. It is also the highest ever crowd for a women's cricket game played anywhere in the world. It was a fitting end to an extraordinary tournament.