Cape Town — “You guys are very annoying!”
That was Sune Luus’ tongue-in-cheek comment to the victorious Australian team after Meg Lanning's side were crowned Women’s T20 world champions for the sixth time in seven attempts at a boisterous Newlands on Sunday.
The Proteas captain was not overly downbeat after her team’s failed attempt at becoming the first South African team to win a coveted ICC World Cup title. She had watched her team give their absolute all to dethrone an Australian side that are simply operating on a different level to other teams.
She acknowledged that the dream may have been crushed, but she could not have asked more from a group of players who have elevated the women’s game in SA to a new level.
Their performance — albeit disappointing to lose by 19 runs — was one filled with courage, character and passion. Sometimes it is fair to concede that the other team is just better on the day.
The bowling unit was disciplined, and the fielding was filled with energy, and they managed to contain the much-vaunted Australian batting unit to a par 156/6. It was only Beth Mooney’s experience of major finals — she struck 78 not out in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground three years ago too — that had the measure of the Proteas bowling attack with another undefeated 74.
And like Australia showed in their tense semi-final victory over India, they are able to absorb pressure and still find a way to come out on the winning side. Much of that has to do with player of the tournament Ashleigh Gardener’s (1/20) ability to give nothing away in the powerplay and then return with equal accuracy at the death.
Gardener’s off-spin tied the Proteas’ openers in knots, and instead of taking the initiative to Australia from the outset, the hosts could only muster 13 runs in the first four overs. And unlike in the previous two matches when Tazmin Brits, in particular, could catch up from the slow start, she was dismissed early on.
This left Laura Wolvaardt and the rest of the batting unit with a mountain to climb if they were going to emerge victorious.
Wolvaardt (61 off 48 balls, 5x4, 3x6) certainly tried her best, and when batting in partnership with Chloe Tryon (25 off 23 balls), there was an element of hope that the Proteas may just snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
“I think it was quite possible on this wicket. We obviously had a bit of a slow start and had to recover after that, and the lost crucial wickets here and there slowed us down,” Luus said.
“There was a couple of nerves from their side as well, while Laura Wolvaardt and Chloe Tryon were batting, so I think, overall, obviously, not the result we wanted, but just positive feelings and feelings of excitement and proud.”
Ultimately, the fairy-tale ending was not to be with Australia’s experience closing out the contest, but Luus’ team can look back at a tournament where they earned the respect of all and sundry.
“We have a got a sniff of what a final is all about, the nerves and everything, and I think obviously getting over that semi-final hurdle was big. So, looking ahead to next year’s World Cup, it is not going to be a big thing about getting over the curse of whatever, it is now just to look ahead at that final and get out on the other side of that,” Luus said.
“I don't think, when we started the tournament, this was something we envisioned. We were hoping it wasn’t going to be too embarrassing with empty stadiums.
“I think we just hoped there were a couple of people coming to the game. And I think to see this at every single game we’ve played is absolutely next level. The country really - they were really behind us and it’s something we never really thought would happen. So, it’s such an honour to be able to have that opportunity to inspire a nation and for them to come out and watch us play, it was such a blessing.”
Australia: 156/6 (Mooney 74*, Ismail 2/26, Kapp 2/35)
South Africa: 137/6 (Wolvaardt 61, Tryon 25)
Australia won by 19 runs