Cape Town — The sun shone gloriously down on Newlands. The Cape Town patrons came out in full force. Even Francois Pienaar was in the stands to bring that infectious World Cup-winning spirit.
But there was to be no fairy-tale ending to the amazing roller-coaster ride that South Africa has been on with the Proteas women’s team this past fortnight.
A first-ever Women’s T20 World Cup final was a mountain just too steep to overcome. Australia were once again crowned champions - the sixth time they have raised the trophy in the last seven attempts.
Meg Lanning’s team are serial winners. And it was this experience that pulled them through, despite the valiant efforts of a brilliant Laura Wolvaardt and the passionate home support of the Newlands faithful.
Wolvaardt struck a glorious 61 off 48 balls (5x4, 3x6) that contained some sublime cover drives down the ground that will stick in the memory for a long time, but it was bettered by Beth Mooney’s 74 not out off 53 balls that helped Australia to a victorious 156/6.
It was, of course, not the first time Mooney has guided her team to the title with her score just four runs shy of her contribution at the final three years ago at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
And that is ultimately what separated the two teams on Sunday.
The Proteas left everything out there. They were economical with the ball, caught mostly everything that came their way and restricted Australia to a total they would have believed they could get.
Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp showed all their experience of playing in Australia’s Big Bash League by picking up two wickets apiece.
The chase was always going to rely on Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits providing the platform like they have in the past two matches.
Positive intent from the outset is the only way to get underneath the skin of this Australian team. India had provided the template in the semi-final.
But the Proteas stuck with their cautious approach at the top with just 13 runs coming off the first four overs. The pressure valve tightened when Brits departed before the close of the powerplay.
From thereon the Proteas were always playing catch-up. And against such a vastly experienced Australian team that was always going to be a daunting prospect.
Wolvaardt kept the flickers of hope burning, and for a few moments the Newlands faithful believed they may be witnessing a miracle, but any glimmer of hope was distinguished when Megan Schutt trapped the Proteas opener LBW with 47 runs still required off just 21 balls.
Chloe Tryon was the last beacon of hope, but after a couple of boundaries and six she was also dismissed and the Proteas’ dream was extinguished.
But when the dust has settled, which may take some time, the Proteas should still look back on this World Cup with a degree of pleasure.
Of course they will always regret losing the final and the opportunity to become the first SA senior team to lift a World Cup, but they should still be able to reflect that reaching the last match was an achievement presumed to be well beyond their scope.
Australia: 156/6 (Mooney 74*, Ismail 2/26, Kapp 2/35)
South Africa: 137/6 (Wolvaardt 61, Tryon 25)
Australia won by 19 runs