England and Australia share a unique rivalry – forever fierce, no matter when or where they play. When it comes to women’s cricket, that is no different – each contest is full of drama, with both teams pulling out all stops to finish victorious.
The stage was the 2012 edition of the T20 World Cup. Two years after clinching their maiden title in 2010, the Aussies made it two-in-a-row upsetting pre-tournament favourites England by four runs in a thrilling final in Sri Lanka.
The 2012 summit clash was the third time both the teams had met in a World Cup final – the 1982 and 1988 ODI World Cup finals being the previous occasions – and that narrow four-run victory at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on the evening of October 7 remains the closest decider. The title triumph was sweeter for then captain Jodie Fields, who missed the 2010 event due to injury.
“During that time, particularly in the T20 format, that rivalry with England was really very close,” Rachel Haynes, currently Australia’s vice-captain, recalled. “(That went) right back to the 2009 World Cup in England when they beat us in the semifinal at The Oval. Whenever we played them after that it seemed like the matches were to-and-fro quite a bit. So it was no surprise that when we got to the final, it was like that as well.”
Australia started their 2012 campaign with a massive eight-wicket victory over India before they trounced Pakistan by 25 runs in a rain-affected tie. But their real test came against England in the group stage.
Batting first, Australia posted 144 for 5 in 20 overs, riding on a 31-ball 39 from young Meg Lanning, who was appearing in her maiden World Cup. However, the total was not enough as Sarah Taylor’s scintillating 65 not out took England home with nearly two overs to spare.
“I was still relatively new in the side,” Lanning remembers. “I was opening the batting back then with Alyssa Healy, so that was a bit of fun. It was my first World Cup experience and I loved being a part of it.”
England were barely troubled by New Zealand in the semis and having lost just a single game in their last 25 T20Is, Charlotte Edwards’s team headed into the final as red-hot favourites. For the Australians, Julie Hunter’s 5 for 22 against West Indies in the last-four, was enough to see them through to the summit clash.
Come the final, England came up against a completely different Australia – more aggressive, confident and willing to take on the game. Their opening pair of Lanning and Healy shared a quick-fire 51-run stand and straightaway put the English bowlers under pressure. After the former’s departure, Jess Cameron (Duffin) stroked 45 from just 34 deliveries to help Australia post 142 for 4.
“At that stage we felt it was pretty defendable and the wicket was starting to slow a little bit and take a little bit of turn,” Australia allrounder Jess Jonassen said. “I think the group was sort of quietly confident but knowing the calibre of players that the England side have, we knew that we still had to bowl pretty well to get over the line.”
For England, who had proved many times before that they were good chasers, the total seemed within their reach. But with a trophy on the line, and the added pressure of a final, would they be able to play witht he same freedom?
With runs on the board and confidence behind them, the trio of Lisa Sthalekar, Ellyse Perry and Jonassen had Edwards’ side in deep trouble at 90 for 6 in 15 overs.
It was left to the lower-order batters Jenny Gunn and Danielle Hazell to keep the chase alive. They did their job – just! They motored along setting up a thrilling last over finish, with England needing 16 runs to win.
Erin Osborne, the off-spinner took the ball for Australia. She had Hazell and Holly Colvin standing in her way. The tension was palpable. First came a full toss, followed by a no-ball, a dropped catch and a misfield.
“The ball just seemed to follow me around,” Jonassen said. “For some reason Jodie Fields moved me into extra cover where Alex Blackwell had been, and I dropped an absolute sitter of a catch. I felt like I’d just dropped the World Cup.”
Suddenly, England looked as though they might just pull off one of the great come-from-behind victories, needing seven from the final two deliveries. But Colvin was run-out off the penultimate delivery trying desperately to complete what was an impossible second run. With six needed off the final ball, Osborne held her nerve, only allowing Hazell a single, handing Australia a four-run victory.
“It was a bit of chaos, but thankfully we got over the line by four runs in the end,” Jonassen said. “It was pretty special for me, not only being my first but also with Jodie Fields being the captain at that stage and her being my Queensland captain as well and knowing the injuries that she went through to get there. “For her to get back and captain us to a winning World Cup that was pretty special for me to be a part of that.”