A smile never left Alyssa Healy’s face during the Women’s Cricket World Cup final - and why should it?
The opening batter struck a record-breaking innings of 170 as her team were crowned champions for the seventh time in front of a packed Hagley Oval in Christchurch.
Healy strode out alongside Rachael Haynes having been put in to bat by England – and there would have been a glint in the eye for both with the conditions perfect for batting.
It was another patient start from Healy, emulating her innings against West Indies in the semi-final where she went on to make 129 and her maiden World Cup century.
At the end of the powerplay, Healy had 15 runs from 25 balls. Perhaps only the corners of her mouth were upturned at this point but as Charlie Dean came onto bowl two overs later, she surely broke into a broad grin.
Dean was clearly singled out as the target of Australia’s boundary-making, even if she was a slightly unknown prospect – the only England player not to play when the two sides met in the round robin stages.
A wry smile may have crept across the 32-year-old’s face as she was put down by Nat Sciver on 41 before her 50 came from 62 balls, her sixth four seeing her past the milestone.
She would take another four off Kate Cross from the very next delivery before dancing down the track and smacking Dean for back-to-back boundaries to remind England that bad balls would be punished.
Healy lost a partner, Haynes departing for 68, but not the ability to build partnerships, as Beth Mooney proved a more than able replacement.
Her hundred was brought up off exactly 100 balls, including 13 fours, as she became the only woman to score two centuries in the knockout stages of a World Cup.
Healy removed her helmet to reveal a beaming smile as she was applauded by the Hagley Oval crowd.
Records tumbled as Healy kept putting England to the sword, easing past fellow Australian Karen Rolton’s score of 107 not out - the previous best knock in an Women’s Cricket World Cup final.
The highest team total in a final would also go on to fall as Australia passed their own mark of 259 set in 2013, with the second 100 partnership of the innings being brought up off a single.
Healy then eased her way to 136 not out, the highest score of the World Cup and her best in ODI cricket - and remarkably she was still not done yet.
She survived being dropped again, this time by a soaring Tammy Beaumont who let the ball sail through both hands.
The helmet stayed in place as Healy passed 150, but the bat was waved to all sides of Hagley Oval as she recorded the highest score in either a Men’s or Women’s World Cup final.
And there was time for yet another milestone before Healy had to depart, becoming the first woman to pass 500 runs in a single World Cup after ending the group stage on 210.
Healy’s innings came to an end thanks to a remarkable piece of wicket-keeping from Amy Jones, one that would have inevitably delighted the fellow keeper if she was not the victim.
A small frustrated look at being dismissed soon turned to another grin as Healy departed the field having made 170 runs from 138 balls – including a staggering 26 fours - again cheered by all in Christchurch for her history-making, World Cup-winning knock.
There would be time for more smiles as England attempted to chase down a record 357, once when Nat Sciver magically avoided directing the ball onto her own stumps.
Healy grabbed a stumping of her own to dismiss Katherine Brunt and reduce England to 191-6, and though Sciver’s fine knock of 148 not out gave England a glimmer of hope, more flashes of Healy’s grin were to come.
The first would appear as Ashleigh Gardner took the winning catch to earn Australia a 71-run victory and seventh World Cup title.
Healy smiled awkwardly as she earned the Player of the Tournament, as well as Player of the Match, award - gracious when collecting both as she heaped praise on her opening partner Haynes.
The final abiding memory of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 will be the Australia team lifting the trophy aloft, with Healy front and centre grinning away.
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