Megan Schutt, top scorer Beth Mooney, and coach Matthew Mott look back on the 2020 Women's T20 World Cup final 12 months on
A year ago, 86,174 people filled the MCG for the Women's T20 World Cup final and watched Australia, led by Meg Lanning, lift the trophy. It was one of the last sport events to have spectators at the venue before Covid-19 shut down the world less than a week later.
While it all came together on the night, both the cricket and the crowd, it was a roller coaster for the home side, who had had a weight on their shoulders the entire tournament. They lost the first game, against India and were 10 for 3 against Sri Lanka in Perth. One wrong move and the dream was over.
Ellyse Perry, the finest allrounder the game has seen, ripped her hamstring off the bone against New Zealand, and another ten minutes of rain in Sydney would have knocked Australia out in the semi-final. Two of the players involved and their coach reflect on the stress, drama, and ultimately, joy.
Beth Mooney, Australia batter We'd sort of accepted that we weren't going to get on [in the semi-final] and were resigned to the fact that we'd be spectators in the crowd at the final.
Matthew Mott, Australia head coach Even as the eternal optimist, there was the voice in the background going, "You just aren't going to get a chance." I think we felt for South Africa as well, they had played a good tournament. I thought their intent to play was good. Think other teams may have taken the easy road and dug their heels in.
Line up for the ladies: crowds flow in to (nearly) fill the G
© Getty Images
Line up for the ladies: crowds flow in to (nearly) fill the G © Getty Images
Megan Schutt, Australia bowler We knew it was a bloody miracle to have even played that semi-final. For me, to keep watching the ticket sales go up and up, I was one of the sceptics when they said they wanted to fill the G, that was incredible. The first game [against India], the 13,000 was the most I'd played in front of.
It was a quick turnaround into the final with a travel day and the one practice session at the MCG before they came up against the side that had beaten them a couple of weeks earlier
Mooney The thing that stood out for me was that all us batters got into the nets the day before the game and faced a lot of slow spin because we knew that's what they'd throw at us.
Schutt The feeling from me was that we'd done the hard yards. I'm not sure what else could have happened to make the lead-up to that day any harder. I was pretty casual, I never bowl the day before a game. I'd progressively got better throughout the tournament, think I'd started quite poorly, then towards the back end was quite confident.
Mott All the pressure had come off. The months leading up to that - and we had tried our best - it got big on us at certain times. It was relentless. Everywhere we went, everyone felt a duty to promote the final, even though we weren't comfortable saying we'd be there. You could see that, the players before the game with smiles on their faces.
No Ellyse? No problem, here's another Perry for you
© Getty Images
No Ellyse? No problem, here's another Perry for you © Getty Images
We were aware of the threat of India before that first game, I can honestly say I was more nervous before that than before the final. Just that expectation, coming in cold. We'd come into the final off some very tough cricket. We maybe felt we had an advantage because we'd be playing that semi-final-type cricket from basically the first game. We were battle-ready.
The final would start at 7pm. The team left for the MCG in late afternoon, making the short journey from the hotel.
Mooney The bus ride there, it was packed on the road, people everywhere, cars everywhere. There were droves of people and the fact they were heading towards the MCG along the Yarra to watch a game of women's cricket was astounding to a lot of us but showed the magnitude of what was about to unfold.
Schutt I remember getting goosebumps on the bus ride. You could see the ticket sales, but to actually see the number of people lining up… This is obviously still quite early, so to see the queues and know they are there for us. That's just not something I'd experienced as a player. It didn't make me nervous, which was surprising, just made it really exciting. Almost brought a tear to my eye.
Mott When we got into the bowels of the MCG, the bus pulled in and you could hear the hum and the roar. I've played a bit at the MCG and it's a great ground with no one in there, but when you hear that buzz, it's extra special. Being inside the cauldron, knowing what lay ahead, it was immense excitement.
While the ground staff, officials, broadcasters and players were doing their thing, Katy Perry performed for the growing crowd. Lanning won the toss and chose to bat.
Scream when you're winning
© Getty Images
Scream when you're winning © Getty Images
Mott I didn't notice it at the time, but the story of Alyssa Healy being tapped on the shoulder by Elyse Perry to say, "You realise you have to bat in about ten minutes" - it wasn't a day for "Get inside, make sure you are doing this or that', it was about being ready to perform but soak this up because you won't get many opportunities like this in your lifetime.
Schutt Right before we started the game they did a big cheer of "Who's going for India?", then "Who's going for Australia?" and I expected that to be not as loud as the India one. The roar that came with that, to hear the noise, that's a moment I won't forget.
Mooney and Healy walked out to open the innings. Healy crunched the first ball for four in an over from Deepti Sharma that would cost 14 but also saw Healy dropped. The opening stand would end up being 115 in 11.4 overs
Mooney As we walked out, Midge [Healy] just said, "it's our time now, Moons, let's go out and enjoy." I remember doing a full 360, thinking, "Holy hell, there's that many people here."
As we were out in the middle, we could see that India were quite nervous, Midge came down the wicket said, "Look, let's just try to capitalise on this over and see where we get to." She took [Sharma] down pretty well.
For us to be able to do it with a smile on our face, not be too concerned about who was bowling at us, that was really special.
Mott I don't think you can speak highly enough of those two for that game. Especially in T20, the first few overs set the scene for the whole day. It was so dominant and calculating, the way they both played. They fed off each other. They put the pressure back onto India, calmed the bench down and looking around, you could tell we were on tonight.
Oops, did Shafali Verma just drop the World Cup when she dropped Alyssa Healy?
© Getty Images
Oops, did Shafali Verma just drop the World Cup when she dropped Alyssa Healy? © Getty Images
Schutt You add in the dominance with the noise of the crowd, it's an experience you can't buy and you can't really relive - I'd love to. To see them do the things we'd spoken about and play with the freedom that was the moment it clicked: we've got today.
After Healy departed for a thrilling 75 off 39 balls, Mooney guided the remainder of the innings with 78 off 54, which would make her the leading run scorer in the tournament
Mooney As a batter you never really feel settled or comfortable. There are really rare days where everything goes right and that was probably one of them. Every decision I made seemed the right one. I have this unheralded capacity to forget everything else in the world other than the next ball coming down at me, but that was one of those rare occasions where I could enjoy the experience as well as focus on what was in front of me. People were there to watch pure cricket. It wasn't men's cricket or women's cricket, it was just a game of cricket. It was incredible to walk off [at the end of the innings] with everyone cheering like that. To ride the wave of the crowd as the game unfolded was really special.
Mott I did have a few skeletons from the West Indies final [2016 T20 World Cup], where we put on 160  and I thought we went out there with an attitude of "We've got this".
I charged [assistant coach] Ben Sawyer with making sure he got round to all the bowlers and reiterated their plans. In actual fact, I don't think we needed to it. They remembered the pain of when India took the game away from them in the one-day World Cup [in 2017]." There was certainly no celebrating halfway through.
Megan Schutt after dismissing Shafali Verma: "Looking back, I could have popped a neck vein. If you could have taken my heart rate, it would have been 190"
© Getty Images
Megan Schutt after dismissing Shafali Verma: "Looking back, I could have popped a neck vein. If you could have taken my heart rate, it would have been 190" © Getty Images
Schutt I've played a lot of cricket games. I've won a lot of games where we should have lost and lost a lot of games that we should have won, so once it reset and we went out to defend, I was like "We can still lose this" so we have to be on our game.
Mooney There were a few expletives in my language, which won't surprise anyone now after the documentary [The Record], saying, "We've got to bowl tight, don't let them get under anything."
India had the batting to take on the target, but they never got out of the blocks. Schutt opened the bowling against Shafali Verma in front of a crowd now at its peak.
Schutt It definitely felt different. I'm nervous for that first ball no matter what. I still sometimes get nervous going in in club cricket. Looking back, I could have popped a neck vein. If you could have taken my heart rate, it would have been 190. I can't really explain the feeling.
I knew the start was so important. I overpitched that first ball and when she hit it, I was like, s**t, this is the exact start we don't need, because cricket is such a momentum game. So I was like, okay, it's time to pull the length back and do what we spoke about. The fact it came off was phenomenal.
It was a great catch [by Healy]. The more I see it, the more it deviated. It was a crazy nick. She does come up to me quite a bit, but not really early purely because the ball is swinging. We spoke about it and said there was going to be one way to stop [Verma] walking at me. It was a bit risky because if I miss my line a little bit and it swings, I know that's five wides. In terms of the reward it was so worth it and the catch was incredible.
Tayla Vlaeminck, Elyse Perry and Matthew Mott celebrate on the sidelines
© Getty Images
Tayla Vlaeminck, Elyse Perry and Matthew Mott celebrate on the sidelines © Getty Images
Mooney Schutter set the game up beautifully, which she has done for a really long time. It was really nice to see her plan and courage. That gave us a lot of confidence.
In the blink of an eye, India's batting stars had gone inside the powerplay. The left-arm spinners Sophie Molineux and Jess Jonassen removed Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues and captain Harmanpreet Kaur, leaving India 32 for 4.
Mott From a coaching perspective, not often do you get to enjoy the game, and I can honestly say from about the tenth over you knew we'd done the job and we could start to look around and enjoy the moment. I made a commitment to do that. You always have that doubt that maybe someone can play the innings of their life but the back end of that was such a fun thing to see faces that had been anxious for such a long time [change].
Mooney To earn that privilege in a World Cup final on the biggest stage, 100% you could see all of us, when the Mexican wave went round and everyone turned their phone lights on, that we completely soaked it up.
Schutt We all knew underneath it that the game was over and we could take it in, but every time we came into the huddle it was, "Keep going, play to our standard, this is the most viewed women's cricket match in the world and we need to put on a show."
Schutt took the ball for the start of the final over and Poonam Yadav, whose spell had left Australia's tournament on a knife edge, found Ash Gardner at deep midwicket
You barely need floodlights when you have phone light
© Getty Images
You barely need floodlights when you have phone light © Getty Images
Mooney I was running all over the show in the fielding innings and I was so puffed. I had been out there batting all innings, then Meg was making me run long-on to long-on. I managed to sprint the fastest I'd ever done when Ash took that catch. It was pretty special to bowl them out to have the opportunity for everyone to run in and hug each other. We went over to Pez [Perry] and Tay [injured quick Tayla Vlaeminck], who couldn't run. To see the emotion in everyone's faces, the euphoria which you don't get to experience very often.
Schutt The most exciting time in my life. That was a really special moment. We were jumping on each other, pretty sure I copped an elbow to the head. Then someone was like, "We need to go to Pez." Her whole career had built to this moment and she missed it.
Mooney was named Player of the Tournament and Lanning got to emulate Michael Clarke and Lyn Larsen by lifting a World Cup trophy on home soil.
Mooney It's still disbelief. I still think I'm an average cricketer who just works bloody hard to score some runs. You realise what impact you can have when you achieve something like that on the biggest stage, at home in Australia. In the last year it has certainly crossed my mind a lot, that I can match it with the big players around the world. We walked our lap of honour, then a few of us had to do media, it was 10.30 and I still hadn't had my first beer.
That was only the start, though, of celebrations that included dancing with Katy Perry and which lasted into the early hours of the morning.
Schutt Finishing up at 4-5am in a changing room isn't all that hard when you haven't started the game until 7pm. We got back in, sang the team song, then we let in all our family and friends. It's a large changing room and it was just packed and that's what made it so cool. It's a real community feel in cricket, we speak about that a lot, and in those moments that really shows why.
Lanning leads her troops on the victory lap
© ICC via Getty
Lanning leads her troops on the victory lap © ICC via Getty
Mooney It was about 3am and the whole team and staff walked out to the middle of the MCG. It was dead quiet. We sat out there and talked about how ridiculous the tournament was, shared stories about how we were feeling, had a laugh. Everyone was in just as much disbelief. We couldn't believe it had turned out exactly how we want it to.
Schutt That's what we spoke about, how close we were to exiting the tournament and having four years of working towards this World Cup gone in the first week. But we spoke about it in a real positive way. We all had the fear we were going to get knocked out early and ruin this whole World Cup campaign for everyone. We had everything on our shoulders, we scrapped for a while then we got our time to shine. We spoke about how we could overcome the worst of challenges, doubt ourselves, and still manage to pull through.
The sporting world went into shutdown a matter of days after the final. A year on, there has been time to reflect, although Australia have been one of the fortunate women's sides to have played cricket since
Mott I've talked with other coaches about the ingredients to win a World Cup, and there are many, but the two most important things are luck and timing. We didn't have a lot of a luck at the start, all ours was at the back end - probably when it counted the most. And timing, another eight minutes and we're out of the tournament. We certainly felt like we'd played bloody good cricket, but we'd had our share of luck and the timing fell our way.
Mooney It's shown if you invest, put your money where your mouth is, people will come and watch it. I don't believe that's the end of the heights women's cricket can reach. There's still a long way to go and hopefully that's just the beginning.
Schutt I'm someone who moves on from things pretty quick, I probably should reflect more, to be honest. What's cool is that we've just moved into a new house and Jess [Holyoake, Schutt's wife] got a trophy cabinet, which I've never had in my life - I've kept all the trophies since I was a kid locked away. When I came, she had put them all in this cabinet, and at the time I was like, I hate this, I hate showing everyone who walks into this room how good am I. And she was like, no, this is what you have achieved and you should have it on show. I was really uncomfortable with it, but I've got the World Cup medal sitting there, and above it is a booklet we got from the 2018 World Cup in West Indies, and seeing it is making me appreciate it even more and what happened. She's right, I need to not put that in the past. That was an incredible moment.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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