The top two Twenty20 International sides resume a rivalry at the highest level – Australia in search of their fourth title, England their second.
Australia v England
ICC Women's World T20 Final
Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua
The first standalone ICC Women’s World T20 was supposed to showcase how far the women’s game had come. The 10 best teams in the world stepped out of the shadow of the men’s game and entertained. Stars were born, others burnt brighter and, riding on the energy of attractive crowds, a new generation has been inspired.
Standing ready for the final push to setting a new standard are two of most successful sides in the women’s game, the No.1 and No.2 teams on the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s T20I Team Rankings. Yes, Australia and England had early-mover advantage, but their ability to be consistently successful at the highest level is because they challenge themselves to grow with every tournament appearance.
When they face off in the final at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Saturday, 24 November, it will be another occasion to push themselves and their closest rivals – “the old enemy” as England captain Heather Knight put it.
Australia came into the tournament as favourites, but they won’t forget that England are the ones with the 50-over World Cup trophy and bragging rights for winning the T20I leg of the Women’s Ashes. Last World T20, they considered a fourth title in a row as theirs to lose – and lost it. This time they aren’t taking anything for granted.
“We've given ourselves the chance,” said Meg Lanning, the captain. “But we need to make sure we get the job done.”
Primary to their batting plans will again be Alyssa Healy, who has picked up four Player of the Match awards from the four games in which she has featured fully. Lanning, though, warned there was more to the side.
“We've got great batting depth within our side,” she said. “We've got Ellyse Perry at No.7 and Rachael Haynes at No.6, who have only been facing a couple of balls here and there. That's one of our strengths. We want to use it as much as we can. If it's not Alyssa's day tomorrow, I'm sure someone else will step up.”
England too, have had different players stepping up. Without being brilliant in the tournament, they’ve been very good and very effective. A standout has been their ability to adapt to the situation and conditions. Their new recruits have been nerveless, the inspired selections of especially the left-arm spinners paying dividends.
“For me, I think the most pleasing thing, the two games we've had in this tournament that have been must win, do or die games, we've put in outstanding performances,” said Knight. “We've been really clinical. Really sort of calm under pressure. Just done it in a sort of no nonsense way and gotten the job done. And that's what tomorrow is about.”
The eve of the match is coach Mark Robinson’s birthday, and England would like nothing more than to give him a win and be double world champions as a slightly belated present. They last won this tournament back in 2009 in its inaugural edition, and aren’t keen to extend the wait.
The tournament began with a century and a five-for on the opening day. It is only fitting if the finale gives us more to celebrate.
Players to watch
Meg Lanning (Australia): The Australian captain is not known to be particularly animated on the field, but her reactions in the semi-final win against the Windies showed how much playing at this level meant to her. Going by her usual high standards, her numbers in the tournament aren’t as imposing, and she’s itching to play a big one. But more than a flashy knock, Australia will appreciate her ability to dictate the pace of the game.
Nat Sciver (England): In the absence of Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver has stepped up to be a solid partner to Anya Shrubsole. And with the top order not always firing, her staying ability in the middle order has been vital. A player for the big games, she already has the World Cup and Women’s Cricket Super League medal, and will be keen to turn up for her side in a big final.
The surface in Antigua proved to be “a tough grind” for teams in the semi-finals, with players describing it as spongy. It meant a score of 120 might have been a good one. A new pitch will be used for the final, and it is expected to offer more for the batters. It should also help that it will be used for just one game. Clear skies are expected, and rains, if any, should be short and sharp. Dew could be a factor, but the captains expected it to settle early and thus affect both fielding sides.
Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Alyssa Starc, Elyse Villani, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
England: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Kirstie Gordon, Jenny Gunn, Danni Hazell, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Linsey Smith, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt.