Sports, Cricket

Australia's women cricketers on top of the world

Published : 05 Apr 2022 11:46 PM | Updated : 06 Apr 2022 03:21 PM

Australia's women's cricketers can lay justifiable claim to being the greatest sports team on the planet after their all-conquering run to World Cup glory was capped by a record-breaking demolition of England in the final.

Individual and team records were shattered in Christchurch as they completed a clean sweep by adding the 50-over world championship to Twenty20 World Cup and Ashes crowns, the culmination of a meticulous five-year plan.

Alyssa Healy played the greatest innings by a man or woman in a World Cup final, smashing 170 from just 138 balls. Australia's total of 356-5 on Sunday was the highest against England's women, the title holders, by any team.

This dazzling Australia side won all nine of their World Cup matches to take their recent 50-over record to 38 wins in their last 39 matches.

Opening batswoman Healy entered cricket folklore after toying with the bowlers in the knockout stages of the tournament, becoming the first woman to score more than 500 runs in a World Cup.

She is the first player to reach three figures in both the semi-final, where she scored 129, and the final of a World Cup -- men's or women's.

If the 32-year-old's century in the win over the West Indies in the last four was a masterclass, her beautifully timed effort in the final was one for the ages.

After a watchful first 10 overs when Australia, asked to bat by England skipper Heather Knight, crawled to 37-0, Healy put her foot down and had a blast -- hitting 26 fours to all parts of the ground.

After reaching 50 off a sedate 62 balls, Healy hit the afterburners and bludgeoned 120 more off the next 76 to take Australia out of sight. 

"That's the style of play that we wanted to go out there and play," said Meg Lanning, Australia's captain.

But the mentality that led to the wild celebrations in Christchurch was a culmination of a forensic examination of hard-to-swallow failures five years ago.

Australia's aura of invincibility was shattered as they lost to the West Indies in the 2016 T20 World Cup final, then were knocked out of the 2017 50-over World Cup in the semi-finals by India.

It prompted a strategic rethink of team culture and much soul-searching. It worked. 

Australia have enjoyed a four-year period of domination -- two T20 World Cup wins in 2018 and 2020, a record 26-match winning streak in one-day internationals, a crushing Ashes win earlier this year and now a seventh World Cup.

Their strength in depth and athleticism in the field has been developed by an investment in intensely competitive domestic cricket, such as the Women's Big Bash League, which attracts the best players from around the world.

It enabled Australia to rotate their line-ups in New Zealand and cope seamlessly with the loss of injured star all-rounder Ellyse Perry for much of the tournament.

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