Meg Lanning is hoping that Australia have saved their best game for last, in front of a potentially record-breaking crowd, as they seek to claim the T20 World Cup title in a tournament that has stretched them physically and mentally.
Only their group match against Bangladesh was without drama as they overcame their opening defeat against India, a batting wobble against Sri Lanka, a brave chase by New Zealand and the Sydney rain to reach the final at the MCG.
It has been a far cry from the dominating performances they put in through 2019 but nothing less than Lanning expected.
“It hasn’t been an easy road to the final but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” she said. “We are match and battle-hardened, all our games have been cut-throat, must-win clashes and have all been close. We’ve had to deal with that pressure, needed to stand up when you are under the pump.”
“We haven’t played our best game of cricket yet and that’s still out there somewhere and hopefully it happens tomorrow. We’ve shown that we’re able to cope and be really calm under pressure and that’s what is going to be needed tomorrow. Often in finals, you don’t need to go above and beyond what you’ve already presented.
“On the field it’s always a great contest, we have a lot of respect for each other and I’ve no doubt that’s what will happen tomorrow.”
“We’ll be going out there to play our style of cricket and just getting the basics done really well. Especially early in the game where there are a lot of nerves flying around. That’s going to be the most important thing. I think the team that settles the quickest will give themselves a really good chance in this game.”
One of the major adjustments they will have to make from the opening game of the tournament is how they played Poonam Yadav who took 4 for 19 at Sydney Showgrounds as Australia collapsed to a defeat that left their campaign forever on a knife-edge. It was clear during their net session on Saturday that plenty of onus was going into how they would combat Yadav’s threat with a collection of net bowlers of various heights sending down legspin.
“We will be facing some slow spinners today at training,” Lanning said. “Their spinners can change their pace. It’s not just Poonam we need to worry about. They’ve got some really good left-armers like Rajeshwari Gayakwad and that’s really important as well. They’ve got a really strong line-up right through their bowlers. We’ll be covering all bases and making sure we’re as ready as we can be.”
There remains a good chance the final will take place in front of a record crowd for a women’s sporting event with 75,000 tickets sold as of Thursday and stand-up tickets made available on Friday. It is within touching distance of the 90,185 that attended the 1999 FIFA World Cup final.
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At the Showgrounds the crowd was around a 50-50 split between the two teams and Lanning was unperturbed by any thoughts that blue could outnumber green and gold as her team seek a home World Cup title.
“You saw in Sydney they have a really big fan base, they are really passionate about cricket and really love it and the atmosphere in Sydney was amazing. It’s probably got nothing on what it will be tomorrow, I hope there’s a lot of India fans there, I hope there’s a lot of Australia fans there to pack out the MCG.
“On the field, it’s always a great contest, we have a lot of respect for each other and I’ve no doubt that’s what will happen tomorrow. We understand there’s one more challenge to come tomorrow, and it’s going to be our toughest one so far so we’re really bracing for that and looking forward to the chance to play against an excellent team.”