West Indies's Hayley Matthews(R)is watched by Australia's Alyssa Healy as she plays a shot during the World T20 cricket tournament women's final match between Australia and West Indies at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on April 3, 2016. / AFP / DIBYANGSHU SARKAR (Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Two sides that are known to play aggressive faced off in what promised to be a thrilling finale. Australia threw the early punches, West Indies then counter-punched in the chase as the might of their explosive batting line-up resurfaced; their maiden entry into the Women’s World T20 final ending in a blaze of glory at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
West Indies were run ragged in the first half as half-centuries from Elyse Villani and Meg Lanning helped Australia post an imposing 148 for 5. Enter Hayley Mathews and Stafanie Taylor, and a daunting chase was clinically brought into the realms of possibility courtesy an opening stand of 120 in 15.4 overs. Once within striking distance, Taylor and Dottin brought all their experience to the fore by seeing off the highest successful chase in Women’s T20I history with three balls to spare.
From the 10-over mark, there was an air of inevitability to the chase as Matthews, who combined her big-hitting prowess with delicate little dabs, got stuck in to the bowling, her takedown of Jess Jonassen, who had conceded only 12 off three overs, turning the tide going into the last seven overs of the chase. Just like that, Australia, who had a fourth title well in their grasp for the first 25 overs of the clash, saw the trophy slipping away as the bowlers, who clinically applied the choke in a similar situation against England, fell apart under pressure, and how. The ‘champion’ dance they unfurled later seemed a distant dream when West Indies’ bowlers came under the wheel of Elyse Villani and Meg Lanning, who flexed their muscle in making 52 apiece in a dominating batting display that had West Indies clutching their straws. Lanning enjoyed the best seat in the house as Villani peppered the leg side field with regularity. The full tosses were swept fiercely, while the short balls were pulled with disdain, with as many as seven out of the first ten boundaries in the Powerplay overs coming between fine leg and deep square leg. Villani’s aggression helped Australia ride the dismissal of Alyssa Healy in the second over.
Lanning too meant business straightaway as she slapped her second ball into the point boundary to trigger a blaze of strokes that left West Indies playing catch up even before they could soak in the occasion. Having blasted 54 in the first six, Australia were on their way to an imposing total.
Once the head start was achieved, both batsmen negated Anisa Mohammed’s spin threat by milking the bowling. That Taylor employed as many as six bowlers in the first eight overs showed the extent to which Australia had derailed their plans.
Deandra Dottin has been central to West Indies’ plans, not just with the bat but ball too. Her variations in pace and pin-point accuracy at the death have been tough to get away, but her predictability on the face of some serious hitting by Lanning and Villani, who brought up her fifty off just 34 deliveries, failed to put the brakes on the scoring.
West Indies had a wicket against the run of play when Villani was caught at cover off a leading edge to break a 77-run stand off just 60 deliveries, but the magnitude of the stand simply allowed Perry to do what she does best, even as Lanning wrists and extraordinary strokes aided by supreme fitness threatened to reduce West Indies’ maiden appearance in the final as a no show.
The 100 was brought up in the 14th over as Lanning lay into Dottin by hitting her for three successive boundaries, each one piercing a packed off side field. Once Lanning fell for 52, it was Perry who lent the finishing touches, hitting two sixes in her cameo 28 before West Indies fought back to concede just 34 off the last five overs through a trail of wickets.
Something about the last overs of their bowling stint, off which they conceded just one run, fired West Indies. Despite having the momentum with them, it was going to be a mountain to climb. For the first three overs of their chase, Australia had a lid on the runs, having conceded just eight. Then they relaxed, only to see Matthews unfurl boundary after boundary to leave Australia ducking for cover.
Halfway through the chase, Lanning called her team into a huddle in a bid to regroup. But that was to no avail. The wicket of Matthews, who miscued a pull off Kristen Beams to midwicket with West Indies 29 off 26 balls, came as relief, more than joy. That allowed Dottin, who had an off day with the ball, a shot at redemption, which she gleefully accepted as West Indies celebrated a historic triumph in style.
2015 Kashmir Despatch