It was a Women’s Cricket World Cup like no other and that was before it even started. Delayed a year by the pandemic and with the build-up overshadowed by quarantines, Covid and continual testing, New Zealand’s tournament was already unique. But if the lead-up to the tournament was underwhelming, the performances throughout more than made up for it. Whether it be the defending champions England losing their first three games, Bangladesh performing in the maiden World Cup or even the famous narrative of mothers showing that they can be both players and mums, it really had it all.
From Game one we knew this tournament would be one for the history books. The opening match saw hosts New Zealand take on the ever-dangerous West Indies. A shock victory for the women from the Caribbean set the tone for the blockbuster of a tournament before it all culminated in the defending champions England taking on the indomitable Australia gunning for their seventh title.
But who shone, who shocked, who surprised, and what does the future look like?
Looking to book their spot in the final, England took to the field in a repeat of the 2017 final as they faced up to South Africa – a team they had lost narrowly to earlier on in the tournament.
Danni Wyatt, who had been bumped up the order to replace Lauren Winfield-Hill since that game, came to the party and showed why she has been a stalwart for English cricket in recent years. The veteran scored an impressive 129 from 125 deliveries and took advantage of the five lives gifted to her through dropped catches. Wyatt is a veteran of this England side so to see her perform at her best and at the top of the order was celebrated hugely by English fans.
But we cannot talk about that semi-final without also mentioning the bowling brilliance of World number one ODI bowler Sophie Ecclestone who came away from the game with her first international five-for taking 6-36 and cleaning up more than half of the South African wickets. Once she came on to bowl, she took every wicket available. Not bad for a 22-year-old.
When it comes to game changing it’s impossible to look past South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp. The all-rounder shone with both bat and ball and did what we have all become used to during an illustrious career that has seen her turn games on their head from seemingly losing positions.
As if not input with her performance so far, she then produced a crucial 32 including a six off Katherine Brunt in the 46th over to help see her side over the line. It was an all-rounders performance that anyone would be proud of and proof why she has been such a lynchpin for South Africa for such a long time.
A second name that cannot be ignored is that of the West Indian firecracker Deandra Dottin. She flew to the headlines in the very first game of the tournament when the West Indies produced a stunning victory over hosts New Zealand. Dottin demanded she bowl the final over of the New Zealand innings. It was her first of the tournament and the home side needed six off six and seemed to be cruising. However, Dottin produced a golden over where she dismissed Katey Martin and Jess Kerr before running out Hannah Rowe on the penultimate ball to leave New Zealand all out for 256. It was an over that will long live in the memory of West Indian and New Zealand fans alike.
Catches win matches
The tournament was littered with so many world-class catches that it’s impossible to celebrate them all or to pick a favourite. Whether it be a flying Deandre Dottin defying gravity to dismiss Lauren Winfield-Hill or Ash Gardner seemingly hanging in the air by an invisible string it had them all.
That’s not forgetting Beth Mooney launching herself parallel to the ground to snaffle Rashada Williams in their semi-final or even Mignon Du Preez’s screamer to remove Rachael Haynes and Heather Knight’s one-handed grab to remove Lea Tahuhu.
To sum it up – the list goes on and on! It’s difficult to narrow the tournament down to one highlight, but the quality of catches was definitely something that are difficult to ignore.
Mum’s the word
In a world-first, the World Cup saw eight mothers all performing at the top level for their countries. Pakistan’s captain Bismah Maroof was usurpingly the most well-documented of these and photos of her and smiling baby Fatima soon went viral.
Maroof was a symbol of power and recognition of how far the women’s game has come in Pakistan and beyond. Having only given birth six months ago, she would have been forgiven for needing to take things easy. However, this captain leads by example and proved her multi-tasking mastery and even led her side to their first World Cup win since 2009. Fans and opponents alike were infatuated with baby Fatima who soon stole the show posing for selfies with the Indian women’s team.
The rivalry between India and Pakistan is perhaps one of the fiercest in world cricket alongside England and Australia but all was dissolved with just one heart-melting smile from baby Fatima.
Captain Maroof has been part of the movement that brought about the introduction of Pakistan’s maternity leave policy. She has paved the way for mother’s to play cricket in Pakistan and is an example to mothers all over that it is possible to do it all and that having a child does not have to hold you back.
Also featuring were New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite and her wife, Lea Tahuhu, West Indies’ Afy Fletcher, Australia’s Megan Schutt and Rachael Haynes, and Lizelle Lee and Masabata Klaas of South Africa. The supermums assembled and performed beyond what perhaps even they expected!
Beating the Aussies – is it possible?
So the Australian victory train rumbles on and at quite a staggering pace. The world number ones and pre-tournament favourites truly cemented themselves as one of the best sports teams in the world at this present moment. You could even go as far to say that they are the best sporting side of any gender in any sport anywhere in the world. But maybe that’s a can of worms to be opened on another day.
It makes you wonder who or what can topple them and when that might occur. The starting point should be the structures in place across domestic cricket in rival nations. England now have a well-established domestic set-up and should hope to reap these rewards particularly in coming years. Charlie Dean was a great example of what the Rachael Heyhoe Flint trophy, Charlotte Edwards Cup and the Hundred are doing for the women’s game and the ECB will be hoping to continue discovering and nurturing gems like Dean in the near future.
As well as this, it’s about funding and supporting female players through contracts. It doesn’t take a cricket genius to understand that being able to play and train full-time will lead to improved cricketers and an enhanced National side.
Australia’s well-established Women’s Big Bash League and Women’s National Cricket League both show domestic cricket at the highest level down under and it is undeniable that this has contributed to their dominance.
While England had the Kia Super League from 2016 – 2019, it took until the post-pandemic era for the 2020 Rachael Heyhoe Flint trophy to be brought in followed by the Charlotte Edwards Cup in 2021 and the inaugural edition of the Hundred. Perhaps, for England this is where the key lies but only time will tell.
The next year has the inaugural Pakistan Super League, Caribbean Premier League and discussions over a women’s IPL so the conversations and evolvement are both there.
We now just have to wait and see what impact this has at the next World Cup in three years’ time.