Written By Rex Clementine
Did you know that the first winners of the Cricket World Cup were not West Indies but England! Yes, the first ever Cricket World Cup for women took place in 1973 in England and it in fact paved the way for the men’s event two years later, also in England. The men’s game has expanded and its 50 over World Cup is the third most popular sporting event in the world after the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.
The women’s game has the potential to grow and Sunday’s World Cup final at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch will be keenly looked forward to.
Australia are firm favourites to win the title for a variety of reasons. They are unbeaten in the competition having won eight straight games and this year they are on a 11 match undefeated streak. England were thrashed this year in the Women’s Ashes as Australia were unbeaten across all three formats stretching to seven games.
However, England have got momentum given what’s been happening in New Zealand since the start of March. They started off the campaign poorly losing three games at a stretch. Pushed to the wall, they played out of their skins to win five games on the trot and peaked towards the business end of the competition beating South Africa by 137 runs in the semi-final.
Despite Australia enjoying a better record in recent times head to head, England came up with a superb effort in their first game of the tournament against the arch-rivals. Chasing 311 runs to win, Heather Knight’s side lost the encounter by 13 just runs. So, effectively, you can’t see Australia have the wood over England.
The England captain has been truly remarkable in this campaign. Like Imran Khan in 1992, she may not have suggested to her team to fight like ‘cornered tigers’, but if they go onto win it will be nothing but a miracle given the awful start they had in the competition.
At the age of 31, Knight may not be around for the next 50 over World Cup and she has been an inspiration to her team to defend the title they won five years ago at home.
Australia’s Ellyse Perry with a batting average of 50 and a bowling average of 24 is the female version of Jacques Kallis but her participation has been doubtful having missed the last two games with back pain.
Even if she doesn’t bowl and Australia manage to get her on the park as a batter alone that will be a massive boost for them to try and seal another World Cup win, an unprecedented seventh title victory. It will be cruel if the 31-year-old Perry doesn’t make it for the finals. She was unlucky to miss the T-20 World Cup semis and the finals two years ago with a hamstring injury.
If Perry plays and doesn’t bowl, Australia will have only six bowling options. In this competition, they have been happy to have seven options at hand and that could be something that England could keep in mind.
England have got everything going their way. They are used to the conditions at the Hagley Oval in south island having beaten Pakistan and then South Africa in the semis. Australia have not played here since 2000.