So there we have it. On a sunny April Sunday in Christchurch, Meg Lanning’s Australia were officially named the best ODI team in the world, stealing the crown from defending champions England by 71 points. If we’re being honest, we already knew Australia were the best team in the world. It’s just that now, with the 20+ title, the Ashes and the 50+ World Cup all sitting nicely in their trophy cabinet, they’ve finally made it official.
This tournament, with its sea of finals, called for a competitive final, but Australia hadn’t read that script. Their version was to rack up the points first, mocking Heather Knight’s decision to play first. Australia had 160 before England managed a single breakthrough – the highest ever partnership for a wicket in a World Cup final – and 316 before the next arrived.
With 356 on the board at the break of the innings, England might as well have gotten on the plane straight away, although an unbeaten 148 from Nat Sciver in the chase at least gave them something. to rejoice as they watch the fruits of their 2017 victory slip through their fingers.
As for Alyssa Healy’s innings – 170 from 138 balls, including 26 limits – what can you say? England had kept her relatively quiet for the first ten, but when she danced down the track and kicked Charlie Dean for four in the middle of the 12th, it set the stage for what was to follow: not just the individual innings the highest of any World Cup final (women’s or men’s), but also the most daring.
The runs came thick and fast, all around the floor – Katherine Brunt’s short balls were fired ferociously, Dean was driven out of attack and tournament leading wicket taker Sophie Ecclestone scored 71 from her 10 overs. Healy hit her ton in the 35th and from there all bets were off as she added another 70 runs in just 38 deliveries. All the while, England had to deal with Nat Sciver scoring the opener at midwicket from 41 – a mistake that cost them 129 points.
Rachael Haynes (68 of 93) was his first partner in crime, reaching his fourth score of over fifty of the tournament after she also benefited from a let go by England, suppressed at the back point by Danni Wyatt of 47. England finally had caught her in the same position in 30th, but by then, with a 160-point platform in place, No. 3 Beth Mooney (62 of 47) could afford from throwing his bat to the ball in complete surrender – his 156-run partnership with Healy taking just 98 balls to accumulate.
It was supposed to be a one-day international cricket, but as Healy and Mooney smashed border after border, there were echoes of March 2020, when the pair wiped out India in the T20 version of that event. Between the 41st and 45th overs, England bowlers were punished for an average of 16 runs per over.
Australia could have added even more to their mammoth tally had it not been for a crafty death bowling from Anya Shrubsole (three for 46), who took the ball to knock Healy off, just as she looked on track for a double cent. Three balls later, Shrubsole pulled bail for missing Ash Gardner, rushing for a second run after Mooney tried Kate Cross’ arm at long range. In his next on Shrubsole took two for two, having Lanning caught before Sciver clung in deep as Mooney finally left.
Shrubsole had been England’s heroine in the 2017 final with a group of wickets at the back; this time around, the achievement amounted to damage limitation. In response, England refused to give up their title without a fight: Tammy Beaumont, Knight, Amy Jones and Sophia Dunkley all went into their twenties.
Even when the holders had eight wickets after 34 overs, a 65-run partnership between Sciver and Dean on just 53 balls gave a glimmer of hope. But Australia made steady inroads: Megan Schutt’s opening spell, littered with a dramatic swing, brought Danni Wyatt and Beaumont Lbw into the power play, while Alana’s leg spin King gave up three wickets for 64.
King could have easily had another – Sciver received a reprieve from DRS on the 23rd, with ball tracking showing the spinner delivery just missing the stumps. Instead, Sciver slammed it for the game’s only six on deep midwicket before patiently progressing to her second century of the tournament, even as her partners came and went at the other end.
Shrubsole was last to go, standing in the middle of the 44th to hand Jess Jonassen not just his third wicket of the day but a World Cup winner’s medal to go with him after Australia’s ninth victory in nine games in this tournament. .
On any other day, against any other opposition, an innings like Sciver’s and a 285 inside chase from 44 overs would have won the game for England. But this is Lanning’s Australia, and even England’s best just couldn’t pull it off.