Playing their seventh final in a row, Australia denied South Africa, who were playing their very first summit clash, a fairytale ending in front of the home crowd. Instead, the Aussies registered their second hat-trick of titles in the T20 World Cup. They had previously won the title in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020.
As it happened: South Africa vs Australia
Opting to bat in the big final, Australia posted a fighting total of 156 for 6 in their 20 overs, riding on ‘Player of the Match’ Beth Mooney‘s unbeaten 74 off 53 balls. And it turned out to be quite enough for them in the end as South Africa succumbed to pressure in their run chase.
The hosts started the chase watchfully, scoring just 17 runs in the first five overs for the loss of one wicket (Tazmin Brits). South Africa were never in the contention after that despite a gritty half-century from Laura Wolvaardt (61 off 48), and finished well short on 137 for 6 in their allotted 20 overs.
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Opener Wolvaardt played a valiant lone hand while wickets kept tumbling at the other end for the hosts. Wolvaardt hit five boundaries and three huge sixes during her knock.
South Africa lost Brits in the fifth over, caught by Tahila McGrath at mid-on. McGrath ran backward to complete a catch above her head off the bowling of Darcie Brown. Wolvaardt and Marizanne Kapp (11) then shared a 29-run stand for the second wicket before the latter was caught by Brown off the bowling of Ashleigh Gardner.
An over later, there was more misery for South Africa as skipper Sune Luus fell to an unwanted run out to slump to 54 for 3 in 10.4 overs.
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With runs drying up, Wolvaardt went for a huge heave towards the onside off a Megan Schutt full delivery, only to miss it and be adjudged LBW. The batter, South Africa’s last hope, went for a review but was unsuccessful as Australia all but sealed the fate of the match.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Jess Jonassen then accounted for Chloe Tryon (19) in the next over before Anneke Bosch was run out a ball later to dash South Africa’s slim hopes.
Electing to bat, Australia lost Alyssa Healy (18) early, caught at covers by Nadine De Klerk off the bowling of Marizanne Kapp (2/35) in the fifth over.
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Then Ashleigh Gardner (29 off 21) joined hands with Mooney and the pair’s 46 runs for the second wicket stabilised the innings before the former was brilliantly caught at long-off by South Africa skipper Sune Luus off the bowling of left-arm spinner Chloe-Lesleigh Tryon.
But Mooney went about her business in blistering fashion and dispatched the bad deliveries to the fence to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Grace Harris tried to up the scoring rate but was cleaned up by left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba in the 14th over as the batter went for a wild heave over the square-leg boundary.
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Next in, skipper Meg Lanning showed intent from the word go, scoring her first runs from a boundary through the point region before being brilliantly caught by Tyron at deep backward square leg off the bowling of Kapp.
Mooney, however, remained unperturbed as she kept consolidating the Australia innings, picking up boundaries with ease.
Even as Mooney held one end up, wickets kept tumbling at the other side as Australia tried to find boundaries towards the end of the innings.
South Africa brilliantly pulled things back towards the end of the innings by picking up wickets at regular intervals with Mooney remaining stranded at the other end.
South African pacer Shabnim Ismail (2/26) had a big role to play in restricting Australia, claiming the wickets of Ellyse Perry and Georgia Wareham off consecutive balls. She was on a rare hat-trick in the final over but Tahlia McGrath denied Ismail the feat, managing a single off the last delivery of the innings.
(With inputs from PTI)