Australia’s victory at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, which concluded at Cape Town on Sunday, was expected: even in a sport rightly celebrated for its glorious uncertainties, a win for the Australian women’s cricket team is almost a certainty. It was Australia’s sixth victory in what was the eighth edition of the tournament. Australia has also been the champion in seven out of the 12 Women’s Cricket (ODI) World Cups. In Tests too — regrettably, there are very few of them for women these days — Australia has the best percentage of wins among all the teams. The Aussies had arrived in South Africa for the World Cup with a remarkable record in the T20 format. In three years, they had lost only once, that too in the Super Over to India at Navi Mumbai in December. It was India that ended an even more spectacular run by Australia: 26 ODI wins. And that victory in 2021 had come in Australia’s own backyard. The Indian women had an excellent opportunity to stop their formidable rival’s run at the World Cup in South Africa, too. In the semifinal, they were well placed in their chase of a challenging target until Harmanpreet Kaur was run out after her bat got stuck.
The other semifinal, however, saw a major upset, with the host defeating England. There had already been excellent crowds for the tournament, but South Africa’s presence in the final ensured a full house at the Newlands Cricket Ground. The South African women may have stumbled on the final hurdle, but their campaign was probably the real story of the World Cup. They had entered the tournament amid a controversy: the captain, Dane van Niekerk, had been dropped on fitness grounds (she failed to reach the two-kilometre running benchmark by 18 seconds). And they were stunned by Sri Lanka in the opening match. But, under the captaincy of Sune Luus, they bounced back admirably and went on to become the first South African team, male or female, to enter a cricket World Cup final. It should be a major impetus to the women’s sport, not just cricket, in South Africa, a country that paid a heavy price for its apartheid policy. It may be pertinent to note that Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first Black President, had successfully used sport — the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which South Africa hosted and won — to unite a divided nation.
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