Finally, the form book goes for a toss!

For India, it was so near, yet so far, once again. Off-field wrangling notwithstanding, the firepower seems to exist for the trophy to be brought home in 2020.

Meg Lanning, the captain of Australia, receives the trophy from Sir Vivian Richards at the end of the ICC Women’s World T20 final cricket match against England in Antigua on November 24.   -  AFP

The ICC Women’s World Twenty20, held for the second time in the Caribbean, had its thrills and spills but concluded on expected lines. Australia and England, the two powerhouses in the women’s game, featured in the final. Australia clinched its fourth title by demolishing its familiar opponent in a low-scoring final in Antigua.

Meg Lanning’s team was happy to have put behind the disappointment of the 2016 World Twenty20 — only the second edition of the biennial event Australia had failed to win. It profited from a purple patch by opening batter Alyssa Healy, who top-scored in the competition with 225 runs in six matches. Three of its bowlers — fast bowlers Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry and offspinner Ashleigh Gardner — took 29 wickets between them.

Harmanpreet Kaur, the Indian skipper, smiles alongside child mascots before the semifinal against England. India lost the match. Earlier in the tournament, Harmanpreet hit a blistering century against New Zealand.   -  AFP

 

However, the appeal of the event was about what could have been. It had been tantalising; at the end of the group stages, it wasn’t Australia or England, but India and Windies that had won all their matches.

India’s captain Harmanpreet Kaur provided a glimpse of her attacking calibre when she smashed a 51-ball 103 against New Zealand in her team’s first contest. That set the tone for its dominance that lasted until the semifinals. En route, Ireland, arch-rival Pakistan and Australia were crushed.

The spinners — in particular Poonam Yadav and Radha Yadav — made hay while the sun shone in Guyana, where India played all of its matches in the group stages. Opener Smriti Mandhana enjoyed setting the tone up the order; she ended up scoring 178 runs in five matches, including a vital, bellicose knock of 83 against Australia.

Deandra Dottin performed well with both the bat and the ball for the West Indies.   -  AFP

 

Mithali Raj, with two half-centuries, played the sheet anchor role in helping India defeat Ireland and Pakistan. Due to injury, she was left out of the team that defeated Australia; however, when the team management decided to continue with that line-up for the semifinal, it snowballed into a controversy, especially as India crashed out meekly. After the disappointment of the 2017 Women’s World Cup — a tourney India came close to winning — the newest blow would have been demoralising for Harmanpreet & Co. Especially when everything seemed to be going right for the side.

It had been a similar story for host and defending champion Windies. The team had brushed aside every opponent in Group A, and comprehensively, as its net run-rate of +2.241 at the end of the group stages depicted. All-rounder Deandra Dottin was its standout performer; she took 10 wickets in five matches at an economy of 5.63, and was also the team’s highest run-getter — 121 runs. Captain Stafanie Taylor also chipped in with useful performances with bat and ball. In the semifinal against Australia, however, the team suffered an inexplicable batting collapse, ending its hold on the trophy.

Perhaps both India and Windies flattered to deceive, but the fact that they were so dominant for the most part would be encouraging for the women’s game. After the semifinal win, Healy, the player of the match, underlined this phenomenon, revealing, “This World Cup is probably the most tightly contested that I’ve been a part of.”

Anya Shrubsole of England reacts after getting an appeal for leg before against Beth Mooney of Australia turned down in the T20 final. Shrubsole had picked up a hat-trick against South Africa in an earlier match.   -  AFP

 

With two wins and two losses, South Africa and New Zealand crashed out of the competition before the knockouts. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the two teams that had come into the competition via the qualifiers — Bangladesh and Ireland — were further behind.

In contrast to the usual fare served in men’s limited-overs internationals, many contests were low-scoring. But the event wasn’t short on entertainment — the early fireworks by Harmanpreet, the hat-trick by England seamer Anya Shrubsole against South Africa, Dottin’s five-wicket haul against Bangladesh, 21-ball half-centuries by Healy and New Zealand’s Sophie Devine, and more.

For the first standalone Women’s World T20, the spectacle was far from a damp squib. Fast-paced scoring and other skill sets required in the Twenty20 format, after all, were familiar for numerous participants, through exposure with the Women’s Big Bash League and the Kia Super League.

For India, it was so near, yet so far, once again. Off-field wrangling notwithstanding, the firepower seems to exist for the trophy to be brought home in 2020.