The Australian women’s team finally put in a performance befitting their home-favourite status at the Twenty20 World Cup with an 86-run win, although it came at the expense of an under-resourced and overwhelmed Bangladesh team.
The opening bats Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney took control from the outset, piling up an Australian record partnership for the format with 151 runs. Australia finished on 189 for one with Healy the only wicket to fall for 83 from 53 balls, while Mooney batted through the innings for 81 from 58. Bangladesh were never in the hunt, with some late run-outs reducing them to 103 for nine.
For Australia it was a welcome night of everything going smoothly, after an opening-round stumble against India had been followed by nearly dropping another game to Sri Lanka in a nervous and unconvincing display in Perth.
But after the captain, Meg Lanning, won the toss and chose to bat in an evening match in Canberra, Australia never looked back. The true wicket and fast outfield at Manuka Oval suits big scores, and for a while it looked like Healy and Mooney would knock off the tournament record of 169 that England’s Heather Knight and Natalie Sciver had set against Thailand only the day before.
Healy set the tone with four boundaries in her first eight balls, regularly lashing through a strong off-side field against the opening bowlers before starting to advance and hit down the ground against the spinners. By the eighth over she had raised a half-century by launching her third six of the innings, all from the unfortunate Khadija Tul Kubra, to the pleasure of a crowd in excess of 5,600.
For a few overs Mooney took the lead, advancing to loft drives down the ground and over cover, moving to her own 50 after some desperate bat-swinging saved her from a stumping off Rumana Ahmed on 47. On they went until the end of the 17th over.
A century for Healy wasn’t to be, the opener reaching for a wide ball from Salma Khatun but lifting the spinner to Sanjida Islam at point. That wasn’t much salve for the burn, though, as Ashleigh Gardner came out to help loot the wicket-taker’s final over for 16, thanks in large part to Nahida Akter parrying a possible catch for six, leaving Khatun with a night’s work of one for 39.
Gardner finished with 22 from nine deliveries, the perfect job with so few balls to spare. A battered Bangladesh team managed to find enough composure that Shamima Sultana and Murshida Khatun held out the opening salvoes, but Australia’s swing expert Megan Schutt got them both in the fourth over, including a dream delivery that coasted in from wide over the wicket to take the former’s leg stump.
Fargana Hoque batted through to the penultimate over for 36, taking a particular liking to the bowling of Annabel Sutherland with some fine straight drives, but Sutherland picked up a wicket at the other end, as did Nicola Carey and Jess Jonassen.
Schutt returned to have Fargana Hoque caught behind with her last ball of the night, then the 20th over saw a team hat-trick with another Jonassen wicket and two run-outs. Bangladesh survived the final ball to make it through the innings with a triple-figure score and without having been bowled out, but that was where the positives ended.
Bangladesh’s tournament is now all but over, winless with two matches to play, while Australia could still be knocked out at the pool stage if they lose to New Zealand on Monday. Their net run rate, though, got a huge boost from the Bangladesh win, taking them well ahead on that front after the Kiwis lost to India earlier the same day.
“We weren’t really focused on that other game today at any point,” said Healy after play. “There was a bit of talk about it on the bus before we arrived, but it was always going to happen, both pools are really wide open at the minute, and there’s probably going to be three sides that are pushing for the top two. To get that result tonight was fantastic against a side that’s really unknown to us. It probably allowed us to think about ourselves for a chance and just get out there and play how we wanted to.”
The word “unknown” was not dismissive. This was the first time Australia and Bangladesh had played in any form of women’s cricket. The Bangladesh men last visited Australia for a Test tour in 2003, when Steve Waugh was captaining Australia, and a one-day tour in 2008. One of the biggest financial players in world cricket should be doing more to assist the game’s future in Bangladesh, where the next generation of boys has just won the Under-19 World Cup.
For today though, those in the halls of power would have had eyes trained on their own affairs. Their women’s team is out of the hole it dug. The New Zealand game remains a must-win, but at least the Australians are in charge of what happens next, rather than facing a chance of being squeezed out by other results. The quest for a huge crowd at the final is still alive.