If Alyssa Healy’s storming 75 from 39 balls wasn’t enough of a marker at the start of Australia’s domineering victory in the Twenty20 World Cup final, she had the additional satisfaction of being given a “gobful” of a send-off after being dismissed by India’s Radha Yadav.
In that moment, Healy knew that the tournament hosts had succeeded in frustrating India and distracting them from the required focus. The cup, provided they stayed the course, was theirs. When she relayed this message tot he team in their dugout when she reached them, the hosts broke up in laughter: this really was to be their night.
“I probably can’t share what was said to me on the way off the field, but I literally just said to the group, ‘we’re right under their skin here, the way they reacted when I got out’,” Healy said. “The way they gave me a gobful on the way off, just meant we were right under their skin, we were right in the front of this game, and if we just kept driving it home we’d be right. Apparently it was funny.”
Pondering her chances of improving on a rare expensive outing in the first game of the tournament against India, Megan Schutt said she had been immediately put at ease by Healy’s words.
“That was a really cool feeling for her to come off and tell us that we were under their skin,” Schutt said. “A little bit of anger just drives you I think. It was honestly really cool. It’s a part of the game, it’s an emotional sport and we’re playing at the highest level, there’s going to be moments like that. We speak about riding the wave a lot and I think we did that. With 180 runs to play with, we just needed to execute our plans well and we were going to win that match.”
Similarly, Schutt said that the 16-year-old Shafali Verma’s drop of Healy in the opening over of the final, followed by her clearly angry and frustrated reaction at failing to cling on to the chance, was something the longtime world No. 1 T20I bowler kept in her memory bank. When they duelled once again at the start of India’s chase, it was a brief contest: Verma caught Healy, bowled Schutt, two.
“She’s young and she’s got a lot of learning to do, and in the game of cricket body language is everything,” Schutt said. “You don’t want to let the opposition know when they’re on top of you. It was obviously a pretty costly drop, she’s got a long future ahead of her, but one thing she’s going to have to do is hide her emotions because that’s really important in cricket.
“It’s either going over the fence or its out, generally that’s the way she bats, so I was just hoping it was going to swing my way, that first shot, when I saw her intent I thought ‘this is real game on here, they’re going to go for it’.”
As for Beth Mooney at the other end to Healy, she knew the game was tilted Australia’s way. “I think they gave her a gobful when she got out, but I’ve said it before, you know you’re on top when they’re finding ways to have a crack at you,” Mooney said. “I didn’t know what she said off the bench, I had to ask Schutter because I was still out there. But in high pressure situations, you see different sides of people, you get a bit of white line fever and that’s part and parcel of the sport and that’s ok, but we were lucky to be on the other side of it tonight.”
All this was to be in marked contrast to the mental battles Lanning had fought across the tournament as the team battled their way to a final they had been so heavily expected to figure in.
“That New Zealand game and the semi-final were the most nervous and sick I’ve felt playing a game of cricket ever,” she said. “I guess to get through that and then coming into today, I guess everyone was a bit on edge but it just happened, it was perfect right from the first ball really. Everyone rides every ball, every game, there’s ups and downs throughout the tournament, but to be able to lead this group is a real privilege, they make my job very easy. To finish like this is just incredible.”
Things had turned, to a large degree, with the mere ability to play the semi-final against South Africa after so much poor weather. “No doubt there were a lot of nerves around in terms of the weather and we turned up the ground and there was a feeling that perhaps we wouldn’t get on, and to get a game in was amazing,” Lanning said. “We keep thinking about it and talking about it, it poured for the next two hours after we came off the field. We just got a bit of luck, and we felt like we hadn’t had much throughout the tournament, and it sort of swung our way.
“I paced up and down the room for 40 minutes before we left [for the final], tried to catch up with people, I think I had five coffees today trying to stay awake with the night game, but it’s all worth it now. The group for the first couple of games perhaps we didn’t have that sense of calmness that we would have liked, but that’s the way it goes, we were able to bounce back and to do that in this tournament is I think a real credit to the group, sometimes you can let it slide for a little bit too long and you can’t turn it around, and we were able to do that.
“We kept at it and stuck at it with what we know, and today was probably the least stressful game of the whole tournament was just amazing. Everyone was on today, you could just tell, we were ready to go and this group always performs on the big stage. We’re ready for the big moments and I thought we saw that tonight.”