If there was a sense of the inevitable to Australia’s coronation as Women’s World Cup champions, the manner in which they got there was still enough to make jaws drop. Alyssa Healy had form lighting up big stages, with her fast 75 at the MCG two years ago setting up a win in the T20 World Cup final. In this tournament the opening bat had 50 overs to play with, and ended up using 46 of them. The result was a monolith of 170 runs, a single innings that was bigger than some teams in the tournament managed with 11.
Granted, Natalie Sciver responded with her own special performance, a 148 not out that ended up as one of the great lone-hand innings and kept a glimmer of a chance alive for England until the 10th wicket fell. The difference was the support from other players that Healy got, carrying Australia to 356, and that Sciver didn’t, leaving England 72 runs short of their target. In the end, Sciver’s more important influence on the day may have been the catch she dropped at midwicket with Healy on 41.
It was exactly that point of the innings when England could have applied the squeeze. Healy’s 41 had come from 56 balls, well short of the scoring speed she sometimes reaches. Rachael Haynes was also dropped that over on 47 from 67. The collective start was slow enough that it could have transferred pressure on to the next batters in. Instead, Healy closed the gap to reach an even 100 from her hundredth ball. Her next 70 runs took 38. Haynes made 68, then Beth Mooney again showed her versatility by taking a promotion to No 3 and playing a T20 knock of 62 off 47.
Parallels between women’s and men’s cricket are often useless, but Meg Lanning’s champions of 2022 bear such a resemblance to Ricky Ponting’s class of 2003 that it bears remarking on. A world-record winning sequence in one-day cricket? Check. Unbeaten through a whole World Cup? Check. A monster score to decide the final before the second innings has even begun? The 2003 team made 359, the 2022 team came three runs short.
Healy went well past the 140 not out that Ponting made that day, and indeed past the 149 that Adam Gilchrist made in the 2007 edition. Her 170 is the biggest score in a final, while Sciver finished up in third spot. It is another landmark in the career rise of Healy, a player who averaged single figures with the bat after her first five years of one-day cricket, and is now among the best of the best.
Lanning and Ellyse Perry were barely called on, each coming in to smack a couple of boundaries in the last frantic flourish. After all her work to clear a medical test, Perry was bumped down to seven in the chase for fast runs. This is the tale of this Australian side: it has one of the greatest to play the game, and often doesn’t need her.
The swing bowler Megan Schutt is another long-termer whose spot has recently been covered with comfort. Any question as to her value though was answered in her first four overs. England went after her with three boundaries, but sometimes Schutt is less a bowler than a drone pilot, swerving the ball through the air, and on this occasion smashing into Danni Wyatt’s stumps and Tammy Beaumont’s front pad. Two wickets for 19. England needed the perfect start, Schutt had denied it.
From there Australia’s spinners swarmed, Jess Jonassen pinning players down with her left-arm accuracy, and the leg-spinner Alana King, still with that new-player sheen, seeing her stocks rise further still. Three wickets apiece, working away at England’s middle order, and every time someone threatened to go large with Sciver, the spinners chiselled them out. Ashleigh Gardner and Tahlia McGrath chipped in for the kind of team performance you expect from this side, where everyone bats, everyone bowls, and everyone does both better than most of the opposition.
The success of Australia’s player development system leaves the current team free to enjoy their success, and the other countries needing to turn envy into action. The Australians know they are the best, hence their lasting annoyance about the 2017 World Cup semi-final against India, when they were ambushed by Harmanpreet Kaur’s epic 171. Five years later, Healy’s 170 has all but washed that away.