Megan Schutt, the Australian fast bowler, said getting Shafali Verma’s wicket in the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 at the Melbourne Cricket ground was an “awesome” way for Australia to kick off proceedings with the ball. It was the first nail in the coffin as India crumbled to an 85-run loss in their pursuit of a mammoth 185.
“That wicket was bloody awesome,” Schutt told Women’s CricZone in an exclusive chat. “We were just so thrilled the plan worked. We had no intention of taking the foot off the pedal after making a good score, but we knew if we got through their top four they were no chance of winning and we had a real sense of being right on our plans early on.”
In the opening game of the tournament, it was Shafali’s blitzkrieg at the top that helped India post a defendable total. Before that, in the tri-series, her rapid 49 laid the foundation to the innings as India chased down a total of 174 with relative ease exactly a month before the final.
Through that series – and the first match of the T20 World Cup – it appeared the 16-year-old had got the measure of Schutt, smashing her for 33 runs off just 14 balls, including six fours – four of which came off a single over – and a six. The six, struck in the tri-series at the Junction Oval in Melbourne, was a towering blow straight down the ground, that sailed over the sight screen and almost out of the ground.
Ahead of the final, Schutt had admitted to not quite enjoying bowling against India. “I just hate playing India – they’ve got the wood over me,” she had said. “Smriti and Verma have got me covered. That six Shafali hit me for in the tri-series was probably the biggest one I’ve ever been hit for. There are obviously some plans we’re going to revisit as bowlers. Clearly, I’m not the best match-up to those two in the power play. They find me quite easy to play.”
However, come D-day, as all accomplished players do, the right-arm seamer stepped up to the plate. In the absence of Ellyse Perry, as the lead seamer in the line-up, Schutt faced her demons and faced the Shafali challenge head on, removing her – caught behind – with her third ball of the innings.
“I did a few interviews beforehand and said that I wasn’t the best match-up against Smriti and Shafali so it was cool was having a new plan and getting the big wicket, putting a huge dent in how they were going to chase those runs,” she said.
Megan Schutt eventually finished the game with four wickets – including the final one of Poonam Yadav – to take Australia to their fifth World T20 title in front of an 86,174-strong crowd. The experience, Schutt said, was “surreal.”
“When they said they wanted to fill the ‘G I didn’t believe they would do it but I was wrong and I was never happier in my life to be wrong!”
"I had seen the ticket sales and it had kind of clicked but not completely. It was not until we drove to the ground and I saw people queuing (up) that I was like ‘holy shit, they are here for us," she concluded.
Full interview by Adam Collins to be published on March 28.