La Gaceta De Mexico - Soul-searching put Australia's women cricketers on top of the world

Soul-searching put Australia's women cricketers on top of the world
Soul-searching put Australia's women cricketers on top of the world

Soul-searching put Australia's women cricketers on top of the world

Australia's women's cricketers can lay justifiable claim to being the greatest sports team on the planet after their all-conquering run to World Cup glory was capped by a record-breaking demolition of England in the final.

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Individual and team records were shattered in Christchurch as they completed a clean sweep by adding the 50-over world championship to Twenty20 World Cup and Ashes crowns, the culmination of a meticulous five-year plan.

Alyssa Healy played the greatest innings by a man or woman in a World Cup final, smashing 170 from just 138 balls. Australia's total of 356-5 on Sunday was the highest against England's women, the title holders, by any team.

This dazzling Australia side won all nine of their World Cup matches to take their recent 50-over record to 38 wins in their last 39 matches.

Opening batswoman Healy entered cricket folklore after toying with the bowlers in the knockout stages of the tournament, becoming the first woman to score more than 500 runs in a World Cup.

She is the first player to reach three figures in both the semi-final, where she scored 129, and the final of a World Cup -- men's or women's.

If the 32-year-old's century in the win over the West Indies in the last four was a masterclass, her beautifully timed effort in the final was one for the ages.

After a watchful first 10 overs when Australia, asked to bat by England skipper Heather Knight, crawled to 37-0, Healy put her foot down and had a blast -- hitting 26 fours to all parts of the ground.

- 'That's the style' -

After reaching 50 off a sedate 62 balls, Healy hit the afterburners and bludgeoned 120 more off the next 76 to take Australia out of sight.

"That's the style of play that we wanted to go out there and play," said Meg Lanning, Australia's captain.

But the mentality that led to the wild celebrations in Christchurch was a culmination of a forensic examination of hard-to-swallow failures five years ago.

Australia's aura of invincibility was shattered as they lost to the West Indies in the 2016 T20 World Cup final, then were knocked out of the 2017 50-over World Cup in the semi-finals by India.

It prompted a strategic rethink of team culture and much soul-searching. It worked.

Australia have enjoyed a four-year period of domination -- two T20 World Cup wins in 2018 and 2020, a record 26-match winning streak in one-day internationals, a crushing Ashes win earlier this year and now a seventh World Cup.

Their strength in depth and athleticism in the field has been developed by an investment in intensely competitive domestic cricket, such as the Women's Big Bash League, which attracts the best players from around the world.

It enabled Australia to rotate their line-ups in New Zealand and cope seamlessly with the loss of injured star all-rounder Ellyse Perry for much of the tournament.

- 'We won't let up' -

Perry, who played the final as a specialist batter, explained how the team ethos had changed.

"Just the shift in attitude and mindset to really take the game on all the time," said Perry.

"We've certainly been challenged, but we've always found our way through that. And I think that's a huge shift from back in 2017."

Healy said the willingness to accept a new mental approach after the dark days of five years ago had been key.

"We came together as a squad and said, 'This is how we want to play cricket from now on and this is how we're going to be the best team in the world'," said Healy.

"It's been unbelievable."

Australia are now eyeing another crown, when women's cricket makes its debut later this year at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

"We certainly won't let up," said Lanning.

"We want to keep getting better and we've got some really good young players within our squad as well who will keep pushing us older players along.

"That's the great thing about this group: we're hungry for success. We want to keep getting better."