IT CAME down to the last ball, but Australia’s Southern Stars last night celebrated a monumental upset against England to claim back-to-back World Twenty20 crowns.
Jess Cameron, a laconic and powerful 23-year-old from Melbourne, starred with the bat, lifting her team to an intimidating total of 142. The semi-professional English, raging favourites to win the tournament, fancied a chase and sent Australia in, but fell agonisingly short.
The match was tense until the very end, with 16 needed from the last over.
It was bowled by Erin Osborne, and her nerves showed. A full toss, a no ball, a squirt to third man, a misfield and a run-out followed. With six to get from the last ball, England’s Danielle Hazell failed to get hold of a full toss, handing Australia a four-run victory. It was England’s second loss in 26 matches.
Fast bowler Ellyse Perry, an expert in pressure situations at world cups, made the the all-important breakthrough when Sarah Taylor, widely regarded as the best female cricketer in the world, chased an outswinger and was caught behind for 19.
It was a match-turning moment, exceeded only when Alex Blackwell launched herself forwards at full stretch at cover to grasp a low catch to rival any in the tournament, men’s or women’s.
The Australians dropped three catches but Blackwell’s blinder to dismiss Danni Wyatt reduced England to 6-90 in the 15th over. Still, the English would not succumb.
Perry’s breakthrough came at the halfway mark of the innings, with captain and opener Charlotte Edwards already sent back to the dug-out by Lisa Sthalekar for an excellent 28 from 23 balls. Edwards had put together an ominous opening stand with Laura Marsh, which was broken when Julie Hunter was brought into the attack and held onto a return catch smashed at her by Marsh.
The grin Cameron wore during her innings of 45 from 34 balls turned to a grimace when she was struck in the knee while fielding, and limped off after the first over.
She scooped, reverse-swept and smashed her way to the highest score of Australia’s campaign, sharing a 51-run partnership with Sthalekar, who turned over the strike while Cameron took on the English attack.
She was both audacious – a six heaved over mid-wicket would have cleared the men’s boundary rope – and inventive. One of her five fours was a delicate reverse paddle against the off-spin of Marsh, and another was ramped over the wicketkeeper’s head off the medium pace of Anya Shrubsole.
Cameron, who was part of Australia’s winning World Cup campaign in 2010, fell before she could finish the job, picking out a fielder a long-on in the 17th over, leaving Sthalekar and Blackwell to push on to a strong total.
Openers Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy set a brisk early pace and Lanning, taking a liking to Emily Brunt’s seamers, carved 25 from 24 balls.
She made her runs with late cuts and cover drives, taking 16 off one Brunt over, but chipped a return catch to Holly Colvin before she could cash in her bright start. Healy was bowled in the 10th over for 26.
Not a single Australian batsman has made a half-century in the tournament and the Southern Stars had failed to defend 144 in their earlier group game against England. This time, the Australians overcame the superpower of women’s cricket.
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