Midge, Moons, Milestones

Big-hitter Alyssa Healy and run-machine Beth Mooney make a formidable opening pair for Australia. The duo broke several partnership records this T20 World Cup. But it's a lot more than the batting skills that make them click.

Mrinal Asija
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Mooney Healy

Alyssa (Midge) Healy and Beth (Moons) Mooney - the M&M partnership © Getty

When Alyssa Healy brought up her century in the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022, she got a big hug and a pat on the helmet from her partner at the crease, Beth Mooney. Over the years, those two had spent hours batting together and witnessed each other bring up many milestones from the non-striker’s end before that authoritative April afternoon for Australia. But the celebrations at that moment were just telling of the camaraderie they share.

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After Australia were stunned by India in the semifinal of the 2017 World Cup, the Matthew Mott-coached side made some tactical changes in their playing style. That saw the more “attacking” Healy, affectionately known as Midge, pushed up to the opening slot. While in the one-day format, this led to Mooney making way for the right-hander. In T20Is, the move gave birth to this Midge and Moons (M&M) partnership.

While the two players found individual success with the bat on different occasions, the pair took some time to fire together.

The 2017 Ashes series was the pair’s first assignment as Australia’s T20I opening combination. It was a memorable one for Mooney, but not for Australia as they lost two back-to-back games against arch-rivals England. The left-hander had scores of 86* and 117* in two of the three games. Healy, on the other hand, had a high score of 24.

The story changed at the 2018 Women’s World T20. The tournament in the Caribbean was Alyssa Healy’s World Cup. Such was Healy’s form in that tournament that Australian commentator Mel Jones said she would back her against the anacondas. She was the Player of the Match in four out of the five games she batted in and was also named the Player of the Tournament for her aggregate of 225 runs.

Alyssa Healy

This was a phase when Mooney often got veiled in the shadow of her more flamboyant batting partner. But the home World Cup in 2020 was going to firmly establish Mooney’s importance to the Australian lineup as well as her stature as one of the best batters in world cricket. The tournament also gave two brilliant century partnerships between Healy and Mooney where both of them took on the opposition in tandem. The first was a 151-run stand against Bangladesh in which both batters finished in their 80s to keep Australia’s hopes alive in the tournament.

Then came the partnership that will go down in history books. It was the big final at the packed MCG. After their captain Meg Lanning decided to bat first, the pair walked in with the intent to take on the Indian bowlers from the word go. Healy later revealed that she had walked up to her batting partner before the first ball and told her it was their time.

Early in the innings, Healy took the charge, hitting three consecutive sixes off Shikha Pandey. Mooney understood her assignment and kept giving her the strike. Once Healy’s carnage came to an end with Radha Yadav breaking the partnership on 115 runs, Mooney took over. The fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and all over the world witnessed Mooney’s calculated masterclass for the next eight overs. 

It was no surprise that the pair kept the highest accolades of the tournament, Player of the Final and Player of the Tournament with themselves. 

From the unbalanced start they had in 2017, Healy and Mooney had come a long way to finding a symphony as a batting pair and witnessing the high of that MCG final. They had also developed a camaraderie by this stage.

In the Amazon Prime Video documentary on Australia’s 2020 T20 World Cup winning campaign, Healy noted how Mooney tends to underestimate herself as a cricketer. When the visual showed Mooney going to collect her Player of the Tournament award, Healy says in the voiceover, “She was about to burst into tears at any moment. And I think she just could not honestly believe.”

Healy, who followed her knock at the MCG with centuries in the semifinal and finals of the 2022 50-over World Cup, has attracted the tag of a big game player and Mooney knows she is not a fan of it. “I can understand why she doesn’t like it because it makes it sound like she doesn’t get up for all the games, which she absolutely does but I know she has a fiery attitude to the knockout games and finals so I’d say she is a big game player, but she is also a normal game player as well,” she said about Healy in a recent cricket.com.au video.

At the ongoing T20 World Cup in South Africa, Healy made a remarkable return from injury. Mooney, on the other hand, got out on scores of 0 and 2 in the first two games. It was an unusual sight given the consistency she is known for. But it didn’t take her long to find her groove.

Chasing 112 against Sri Lanka, Australia’s opening pair finished the game unbeaten within 16 overs. Both Healy and Mooney brought up their half-centuries. Both finished on a similar score, just like those games against Bangladesh and India in the last edition of the T20 World Cup.

On their way to win against Bangladesh, Healy and Mooney broke a few records. They overtook England’s Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor’s tally of 711 T20 World Cup partnership runs by bringing up their 739. Moreover, this was their sixth 50+ partnership and third-century partnership in Women’s T20 World Cups - both highest for any pair. 

Talking about Mooney’s innings at the post-match press conference, Healy’s happiness at her being back amongst the runs was palpable. “It was good for her to spend some time at the crease, probably more for her own mental health than anything else… and for me to be there at the other hand and support her as best as I can,” she said.

Come the knockouts, Australia found themselves facing India in the semifinals. Just like that final of the previous edition at the MCG, Healy started with a four. It was like one big déjà vu for India, as Healy and Mooney kept finding the boundaries and forced the fielders to make errors. 

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They brought up fifty runs together in the eight over, before the partnership was broken. Healy was the first one to depart, falling once again to Yadav’s spin. As if on cue, Mooney hit the accelerator and made the most of the lives given to her on the field. She brought up her half-century with an innovative shot and then lost her wicket on 54. Even though their stand did not last long as the last time, Healy and Mooney had once again set up the platform for Australia’s victory in an important game, as the eventual total of 172 was successfully defended, even if miraculously.  

Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney might be very different personalities and players with different batting styles, but the camaraderie they share makes theirs an iconic partnership and they complement each other perfectly. Like peanuts and chocolate. 

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