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The Australian women's cricket team have won everything on offer, so what's left for them to conquer?

Moment Australia beat South Africa to win 3rd straight Women's T20 World Cup

Another T20 World Cup has come and gone, and the Australian women have completed the hat-trick, winning three straight titles to lift the trophy for the sixth time.

In the space of less than 12 months, the team have knocked it out of the park, literally and figuratively, claiming the 50-over World Cup crown and a Commonwealth Games gold medal too.

While some have labelled their sustained success boring or predictable, most are in awe of the way this team finds a way to win again and again.

Yes, the result may have been the same as the last two tournaments, but by no means were either of Australia's victories throughout the finals at Newlands, Cape Town an easy feat.

Harmanpreet Kaur was devastated after being run out in the T20 World Cup semifinal. (Jan Kruger-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

In the semi, a key piece of fielding turned the game on its head, when Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur was run out by Ashleigh Gardner for 52 in the 15th over.

The women in blue were tracking well ahead in their run chase at the fall of this wicket (5-133). In fact, they were 25 runs ahead of where Australia was at the same point (2-108).

In the final, the Proteas restricted the eventual winners to their lowest total batting first at the tournament (156) and were just 10 runs behind (5-121) Australia's efforts (4-131) midway through the 18th over when a hard-hitting Chloe Tryon fell.

The breakthrough from spinner Jess Jonassen was pivotal in the title defence, as was swing bowler Megan Schutt's LBW dismissal of dangerous opener Laura Wolvaardt for 61.

Laura Wolvaardt was South Africa's best player with the bat in the final. (.Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

What sets the Australians apart in tough matches, is that they know how to nail the basics under pressure and execute the little moments that could prove the difference between a win or a loss.

So is this current side the very best sports team the world has ever seen?

Many have been quick to label them as such, after a six-year period of dominance — spurred on by their 2017 semifinal loss at the 50-over World Cup — where they have conquered every international series possible, barely dropping a game.

But former greats of the side have stopped short of buying into that hype; instead preferring to revel in the evolution of the team throughout the full-time, professional era.

Kristen Beams was part of the Australian side that lost the 50-over Cricket World Cup semifinal to India in 2017. (Getty Images: Nathan Stirk)

"It's such a hard question to answer because I think you'll always make comparisons at different points, even to the dominance former Australian women's teams have had in the past," Kristen Beams told the ABC's Beamsy and Britt podcast.

"I just think I look at it differently, because I think it's a bigger reflection of the evolution of this team over time and because I'm old, I can reflect on that period when some of these players first burst onto the scene as young kids."

Beams made special mention of Beth Mooney's evolution from fringe player to "quite possibly the best batter in the world" after her unbeaten 74 off 53 in the final, leg spinner Georgia Wareham's fight back from a torn ACL, and player of the tournament Ash Gardner, whose big hitting is now accompanied by death bowling and secured a Women's Premier League contract in India for more than half a million dollars.

"[Then] you've got Darcie Brown, who's still a teenager and has already been in the team for two years," she said.

"I just think they're a team that is only going to get better and I don't see it getting any easier to play against them because they continue to evolve their game."

Australia celebrate their win at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. (AP: Aijaz Rahi)

Certainly, if we compare what the Australian men's cricket team has achieved over its lifetime to the women's, the latter has been more dominant in the white-ball field.

They have won seven Cricket World Cups to the men's five, six T20 World Cups to the men's one, and even broken Ricky Ponting's 2003 men's team's record winning streak of 21 ODIs over 133 days, with a 26-game winning run that spanned more than three-and-a-half years.

Alyssa Healy also eclipsed Adam Gilchrist's mark for the highest score in a World Cup final with her 170 in last year's 50-over decider.

Beamsy and Britt - Australia win a sixth T20 World Cup

They're the only Australian side to have won a gold medal in cricket at a Commonwealth Games, after Steve Waugh's men had to settle for silver in 1998 at Kuala Lumpur.

Of course, this list of achievements has been built on the legacy of the former female legends of the game.

Imagine what Margaret Peden's team in the '30s, Raelee Thompson's in the '80s and Belinda Clark's at the turn of the millennium could have done if they'd been met with the same level of support, resources, respect and revenue afforded nowadays.

That context is important to the conversation, and if we're going to talk about missed opportunities, imagine what Meg Lanning's team might have already achieved in the Test arena if the ICC had backed the women to play more of the traditional format.

Perhaps when people ask what more this team could possibly achieve now, after winning everything on offer in white-ball cricket, the most obvious answer is conquering the art of Test cricket.

White-ball dominance confirmed, but what about white clothes?

Having played just six Tests throughout her entire career, Meg Lanning has captained four: one victory and three draws. (Getty Images: Albert Perez)

Lanning's tenure as skipper began way back in 2014, when she became Australian's youngest-ever captain as a 21-year-old. On Monday in the World Cup final, she became the first cricketer to captain her side in 100 T20I appearances.

After almost a decade in charge, she's led her side in just four Test matches. And people wonder why so many women's Tests end in a draw.

With so few opportunities, it makes sense to play it safer with batting totals, sometimes at the expense of the match result as captains and coaches are not as well practiced in the nuanced tactics of the longer form. It has also been argued that the way the points system works in the multi-format series where these rare Tests feature, doesn't always encourage teams to rock the boat.

Not to mention women have only typically been given four days to find a result.

But if we focus in on Lanning and the evolution of her game, her seamless comeback from a six-month mental health break probably hasn't got enough airtime in this 2023 T20 World Cup story.

Meg Lanning has come back better than ever each time she has taken an extended break from the game. (Getty Images: Alex Davidson)

After a packed schedule that left her feeling burnt out, Lanning spent time overseas travelling and working in a coffee shop last year, unsure if she would ever return to the game. Now she looks relaxed and like she's enjoying herself, as if she's letting her personality shine through more than ever before.

It was the first time Lanning had taken an involuntary break, but not the first time she'd spent an extended period on the sidelines. Back in 2017, after bowing out of the 50-over Cricket World Cup in the semifinals, Lanning was forced to undergo shoulder surgery and had to hand the captaincy reigns over to Rachael Haynes for seven months.

That meant she missed the 2017 Ashes, including the first of four successive drawn Tests for the Australian women's side over five years.

"This time as much as the last, Meg hasn't skipped a beat and I think that says so much about her as a leader, that she can come back into the team and get straight back to business," Beams said.

Australia's current era of white-ball dominance was ignited under previous coach Matthew Mott, with the combined leadership of Meg Lanning and the now retired Rachael Haynes. (Getty Images: Phil Walter-ICC)

"We talk about competitiveness, this is someone who loves to win and wants to win big tournaments and as a captain, she is always someone who was looking for new ways to try and win the game.

"It's kind of scary to think that now Meg has had this great refresh, that she could continue to test opposition teams for another 10 years if she wants to.

"What is that going to mean for international cricket and what will that mean for her legacy? Because if she had never played another game after this break she would have still gone down as one of the best leaders the world game has ever seen."

Perhaps part of that legacy, aside from all the success, is to simply reassure players that it's OK not to be OK.

There have been several players in recent years that have stepped away to focus on their mental health, but none potentially as high-profile or in such a senior position as the national captain.

So what's next for this Australian team?

From 2018 to 2022 women in India competed for the Women's T20 Challenge trophy. Now there's a fully fledged Women's Premier League. (Twitter: IPL)

The majority of Australia's women's players have travelled straight from South Africa to India to take part in the first Women's Premier League (WPL) beginning March 4.

Twelve of Australia's squad members from the T20 World Cup were picked up in the WPL Auction and they'll link up with domestic players Laura Harris, Erin Burns and Heather Graham in Mumbai, where the competition is being held.

Beyond this, the Australians will begin their preparations for their away Ashes tour beginning in June.

England and Australia did not meet during the T20 World Cup, but both were undefeated throughout the group stages.

England last hosted the Women's Ashes in 2019, but haven't won the multi-format series since 2014. (Getty Images: Henry Browne)

Some pundits believe England may have had what it takes to beat Australia, had they not bowed out against South Africa in the semis, so the multi-format series should be a proper contest for the seemingly unbeatable Australian team.

Particularly the single Test in the Ashes series, which will be played at Trent Bridge across five days, rather than the usual four that has become the norm in the women's game.

It's a step in the right direction in treating women's Test cricket seriously and will hopefully help the match end with a result.

"I think this loss will only drive England harder to prove themselves in this Ashes series," Beams said.

"They'll be playing on their own wickets in favourable conditions and will be hungry off the back of this, they would be ruing the fact that they weren't in that final.

"They're well placed with a talented line-up, so it will be interesting to see how that changes across the different formats … I expect it to be a lot closer than last year's."

Listen to the full analysis of Australia's performance at the Women's T20 World Cup on the Beamsy and Britt podcast via the Best of ABC Sport feed.

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