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Taylor, Matthews script history as West Indies Women lift maiden title

Wisden India logo Wisden India 03-04-2016

At her pre-match press conference, Stafanie Taylor, West Indies captain, had spoken of how Dwayne Bravo had gently rebuked her for not doing the ‘Champion’ dance enough. On Sunday (April 3), Taylor batted almost to the end as West Indies pulled off the greatest run chase in the history of the women’s game, overhauling Australia’s 148 for 5 with eight wickets and three balls to spare. Hayley Matthews struck a marvellous 45-ball 66, complete with six fours and three sixes, to steal the headlines, but Taylor’s utterly assured 59 (57 balls) was as immense a knock in the most clinical of chases.

Till Sunday, Australia’s successful pursuit of England’s 105 in 2014 had been the biggest in a women’s final. Knowing that they would have to create history, West Indies started circumspectly, with a Taylor on-drive off Megan Schutt the only four in three quiet overs that went for just nine.

The introduction of the vastly experienced Rene Farrell changed things, with Matthews lofting her over midwicket and then flicking down to deep square leg for four. Schutt was then pummelled over long-on for six, before the shot of the tournament, a quite breathtaking straight six off Ellyse Perry that landed just short of the sightscreen.

Taylor then edged an ungainly four, before a miscue through mid-on meant that one of Australia’s bowling talismans had gone for 16 in her second over. With Taylor biding her time and picking off errors in length from the spinners, West Indies were cruising.

They matched Australia’s halfway total of 76 without losing a wicket, and when Meg Lanning turned to Jess Jonassen’s left-arm spin, Matthews upped the ante with a six over long-on and a deflection behind point that took her to a 35-ball half-century.

Taylor was more than happy to turn over the strike, and when she did play a stroke in anger, on 42, Perry put down a tough caught-and-bowled chance. In Schutt’s next over, Matthews glanced four, survived a leg-side stumping, and then watched as Taylor clipped behind square to whittle the target down to 32 from the final five overs.

Matthews couldn’t apply the finishing touches, pulling Kristen Beams to Alex Blackwell at midwicket, but a couple of rasping straight hits from Deandra Dottin removed the last vestiges of Australian resistance. Taylor fell, a tired cut to point off Farrell, but the job was done and the dream was almost reality.

Taylor had spoken of how there would be some nervousness in the West Indies ranks, and that was evident as Australia, the three-time defending champions, started briskly. Elyse Villani pulled Shamelia Connell for four and then slogged a full toss from Matthews behind square for four more.

West Indies did get the early breakthrough when Alyssa Healy clipped a low full toss back to Matthews, but that only served to open the floodgates as Villani and Lanning took charge.

Villani set the tone, sweeping both Matthews and Taylor as the spinners struggled to land the ball. In Dottin’s first over, she pulled and cut fours before surviving an excellent leg-before shout. A loft to long-on saw 17 come from the over, and 54 from the Power Play.

Lanning was no idle spectator, cutting Afy Fletcher’s offspin for two fours, as the 50 partnership came up in just 35 balls. It needed Anisa Mohammed, the leading wicket-taker in Twenty20 Internationals, to quieten things down, with two overs for just seven, but when Shaquana Quintyne came on, Villani swept beautifully to bisect the field and bring up a 34-ball half-century.

She was out soon after, as a checked drive off Dottin went off the leading edge to Taylor at mid-off, but Lanning ensured there would be no let-up with precise cuts and drives that pierced the field. With five overs remaining, Australia were beautifully poised for launch at 112 for 2.

Lanning reached her 50 off 45 balls, and Ellyse Perry, who took a few balls to gauge the situation, then launched Quintyne over long-on for six. Lanning fell leg before to Anisa, but with Perry stroking Taylor for another six, Australia had the highest total made in a Women’s World Twenty20 final.

Dottin, who had gone for 32 in her first three overs, then returned to bowl a stunning final over. After three dot balls, she trapped Perry lbw, and gave up just a run as Australia were kept below 150. That, as much as Anisa’s wonderful spell (4-0-19-1), would prove pivotal.

After three consecutive semifinal exits, it was finally time for West Indies Women to dance.

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