Women’s World Cup final: Will it be Australia’s seventh or England’s fifth title?
Christchurch : As Australia and England prepare to clash in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup final at the Hagley Oval on Sunday, it’s indeed an irony that despite having won 10 of the previous 11 World Cups between them, the two sides will face off in the title round for the first time in 34 years.Australia have won six World Cups, while England have bagged four, and the two teams have a lot at stake, given that the Meg Lanning-led side would be in search of a record-extending seventh title, while England will look to defend their crown they won in 2017 at Lord’s, defeating India.Australia have lost only one World Cup final. Back in 2000, at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln, hosts New Zealand defeated Australia by just four runs in one of the closest final encounters the tournament has ever seen.That year, England recorded their worst-ever World Cup finish of fifth before fighting back to take the trophy from Australia in 2009. That same year, England also claimed their first, and only, T20 World Cup as well as an Ashes victory.It is something that Australia are hoping to match 13 years later, as they already hold the T20 trophy having secured that on home soil in 2020 before the Ashes were sealed with two games to spare in February, but the one-day World Cup evades them.
Australian vice-captain Rachael Haynes already has a winner’s medal from 2013, and she is well on her way to a competition record — the opening batter sits on 429 runs for the tournament, 27 behind Debbie Hockley of New Zealand’s all-time best set in 1997.That is not the only record that could be broken in the final. England cricketer Sophie Ecclestone has the chance to surpass Australian Lyn Fullston, whose haul of 23 wickets in 1982 remains the mark to beat.Ecclestone sits on 20 wickets having taken her maiden international five-wicket haul in the semifinal against South Africa ending on s6/36, the best figures by an England bowler in a World Cup.The left-arm spinner is emblematic of England’s journey in the World Cup, where she and her team didn’t quite make an impact at the start but have peaked at exactly the right time. The 22-year-old started with her worst-ever figures in ODIs with none for 77 against Australia in the group stage, while England were on the verge of elimination after losing three games.Defeats to Australia, West Indies and South Africa saw England down and out, leaving the defending champions reeling, but wins against India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh helped them book their place in the knockouts and set up a rematch of the 2017 semifinal with South Africa.
England saw off the Proteas with ease to keep their hopes of a fifth title alive, and Ecclestone praised captain Heather Knight’s leadership as she guided her side back from the brink.”Obviously we didn’t start off great, I think the three from three losses wasn’t great but to come back the way we have. I think Heather’s a big part of this group and what we’ve achieved, so hopefully we can go out there on Sunday and do it for Heather,” said Ecclestone.Knight has the chance to make history as the first England captain to guide her side to back-to-back titles, that day at Lord’s in 2017 is still fresh in their minds. However, Australia’s memories of five years ago are morale shattering.Meg Lanning’s side was knocked out of the semifinal by the batting brilliance from India’s Harmanpreet Kaur. And for fast bowler Megan Schutt, that result has led Australia to make a massive overhaul in terms of tactics.”That was a very long time ago. We’re a very different team and when I see photos from the 11 that were on that field, it’s almost a 180 flip. What that brought was a form of professionalism and accountability that we didn’t have back then and now we have plans A through to F and that was the kick up the butt that we needed. As much as we can talk about that being a failure and whatnot, that actually created a really good dynasty for us and it’s nice five years later to finally be in a final,” said Schutt.