Gardner, Warehem help Australia lift fourth title

Ash Gardner

Australia 106 for 2 (Gardner 33*, Lanning 28*) beat England 105 (Wyatt 43, Knight 25, Gardner 3-22, Wareham 2-11) by eight wickets

(ESPN) Australia have never lost to England in a cup final, and that record will now stay at least till the next world event in 2020. Meg Lanning’s side romped to their fourth World T20 crown with an eight-wicket vanquishing of England on the grandest stage of them all at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua.

As was the case four years ago in Bangladesh – when the sides last met in a World T20 final – England limped to 105. In Mirpur, Australia blasted the runs in 15.4 overs then. Here, they were a tad faster, taking three balls lesser, albeit on a slow surface. On the face of heavy dew that completely negated England’s spin threat, run scoring was not really a bother.

Alyssa Healy, somewhat made up for multiple lapses behind the stumps, to set the tone for the chase with a 20-ball 22, including 14 off the first over by Anya Shrubsole. She finished the tournament as the leading run-getter; her 225 runs despite playing one innings fewer than the next best. This also made her the undisputed choice for Player of the Tournament.

In many ways, Healy’s career-turnaround came in 2014 in Bangladesh, where Australia last won the World T20. Still a rookie far from assured of her place in the XI, it was her bristling knock at No. 7 in a tense chase against West Indies that put Australia in the final in the first place. Here in West Indies, four years on, she stamped her authority to emerge as one of the undisputed and feared ball-strikers in the women’s game.

Any chance England had of applying pressure on Australia lay in the Powerplay. They ended up conceding 37 in exchange of Healy’s wicket, but had to pay the price for an underwhelming batting show Ashley Gardner, who picked three wickets with her accurate and flat offbreaks, and Meg Lanning built on the early tempo to seal the deal. The batting show, in many ways, masked their fielding lapses that may have proved costly on another night – they let go as many as five catches.

Yet, that they found a way out to still restrict England was largely due to the efforts of 19-year old legspinner Georgia Wareham. Having begun senior cricket in men’s Division Three as a high school student, she graduated to the WBBL by playing for Melbourne Renegades. All the early experience was put to use under pressure.

Her first touch in the final was a direct hit from mid-on to fell the in-form Amy Jones in the fifth over. Moving to her right quickly from mid-on, she swooped in and nailed a flat hit at the bowler’s end to offset two missed chances by Australia – first by Rachel Haynes at point and then by Healy – to reprieve Danielle Wyatt.

Gardner is the Player of the final: `There was obviously a lot of nerves but we took confidence from the semi-final. It’s pretty amazing that we got the win. I don’t think I had to stray too far away from my stock ball. Every single bowler did a good job today. Yeah, I did not have the tournament I would have liked. I was fortunate enough to hit some boundaries. To finish it with Meg… I was seeing it okay, when the bowler tossed it up, I went through with the shots. I’m speechless to be honest.’

Alyssa Healy, Player of the tournament: `The girls played beautifully tonight and proud of the team’s effort. I don’t have an answer but I’ve played freely and knew it would come off eventually. Hoping to continue at the Big Bash. It’s pretty special and we’ve worked hard in the last 12 months. Win or less today, we’re proud of the way we played. The 2010 World Cup in the Caribbean is my favourite, but this one could well top it. It takes us three days to get to the West Indies but it’s a fun place to tour.’

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