I was so busy at Creative Histories that I didn’t have time to look in much on the Australia-India game. A quick check at lunch showed that the start had been delayed by rain. When I checked again I could not believe my eyes.
The match had been reduced to 42 overs a side. India had won the toss and elected to bat. After 25 overs they were reduced to 101/3, Mithali Raj having just misjudged a ball from Kristen Beams and seen her stumps flattened. 17 overs later they concluded their innings with a total of 281/4. That’s 180 runs added for just 102 balls bowled, and only one wicket lost. What happened?
What happened was Harmanpreet Kaur. She had already shared in a partnership of 66 with Raj, but on becoming the senior partner she took over the match. She finished on 171* off 115 balls, including 7 sixes. I got to watch the highlights this morning and it is rare that you see batting so destructive anywhere. It was an innings that Viv Richards or Sachin Tendulkar would have been proud to play. Those Indian fans lucky enough to have paid £10 to watch the match in Derby more than got their money’s worth. They will be able to say, “I was there”, when one of the legendary innings of Indian cricket was played.
Give them their due, the Australians did not give up. Their innings was dealt what was probably a fatal blow when Meg Lanning was bowled by veteran Indian pace bowler, Jhulan Goswami, for an 8-ball duck. Elyse Villani (75) and Alex Blackwell (90) stepped up to the plate to try to keep their side in the match. Blackwell even managed to score faster than Kaur. But neither player could match the dominance of Kaur. Villani was out in the 23rd over, and she was quickly followed by Perry in the 26th, Healey in the 28th, Gardner in the 29th and Jonassen in the 30th. Blackwell tried her best to win the match on her own, but it was too big a hill to climb and Australia were all out with 11 balls remaining and 37 still needed.
So tomorrow’s final will be England v India. The Indian side will be on a massive high after that victory, and will remember beating England in the first match of the tournament. England, however, are on a 7-game winning streak including incredibly close games against Australia and South Africa. They will also have a much bigger crowd behind them than the Australians did. Lords is sold out, so the atmosphere should be incredible.
Whoever wins tomorrow, and a very close match seems likely, the winner will be women’s cricket. Lots of eyebrows were raised when this tournament was given prestige venues and full TV coverage, but it has delivered far more drama and quality cricket than most people expected. Lords has a capacity of 30,000, but the TV audience for tomorrow’s match could easily hit 300 million (more than 3 times that many watched the Champion’s Trophy final between India and Pakistan men earlier in the year). That’s serious eyeballs. The sponsors will be delighted. Getting money and TV coverage for future women’s cricket tournaments will doubtless be a whole lot easier. Here’s hoping that also translates into more money for the players.