All hopes of Indian fans were dashed and ones donning the green and gold at the Melbourne Cricket Ground were filled with ecstasy as Australia retained their Women's T20 World Cup title with an emphatic 86-run win on the International Women's Day. But besides the emotions attached to the results and the talks around it, there were far better facts that women's cricket could cherish.
86,174 people watched with bated breath at the iconic stadium, unprecedented number of fans followed the match on their TVs and phones were refreshing. It would have been unthinkable five years ago. And as Sunday’s developments unfolded, one thing became clear, fans who like a riveting performance, no longer bank on only men to deliver one.
As soon as Australia emerged as the second finalist earlier last week, hours after India made their maiden finale qualification in the history of Women's T20 World Cup, #FilllTheMCG started trending on Twitter. Even the organisers started banking on the trend for they couldn't ask for a better contest for the summit clash after an enthralling two-weeks of action Down Under. Two teams, who have ruled and dominated women's cricket for so long, were pitted against each other at the oldest cricket stadium in the world. And the with the trend, the sole objective was to reach the magic number.
An attendance of more than 7,029 spectators and MCG would record the number for the biggest women's cricket crowd at the venue. At 13,433, it would be the biggest women's cricket crowd in Australia. At 53,035, it would be the biggest women's sports crowd in Australia. But the organisers had targeted a bigger number to make the choice of hosting the finale at the MCG a success story. Back in 1999, during a FIFA World Cup match between USA and China, California's Rose Bowl had recorded the highest attendance for any women's sporting event with 90,185 spectators present at the venue. The crowd attendance at the MCG, albeit shy by 4,011 from that magic number, had lots to tell from the record five-digit figure it recorded. And it was more than what Lord's had accounted for in the 2017 Women's World Cup final between India and England. The total also beat the estimated 80,000 who had watched Australia's win at the Eden Gardens in the 1997 ODI World Cup final.
The numbers were even as staggering off the field with over 3 million people glued to their Hotstar app during the live match and Twitter recording an approximate figure of 32K tweets at the time when the final ended.
The loudest of renditions 💥 pic.twitter.com/dvEywSPCVe— Australian Women's Cricket Team 🏏 (@AusWomenCricket) March 8, 2020
What also made it special was its success in hosting the event when the world has been shaken by the coronavirus outbreak, forcing many events to get cancelled, even leaving Olympics qualification under jeopardy. But far away from this pain and tension that has engulfed more than half of the world, MCG was graced by clear skies, much in contrast to the damp conditions earlier last week in Sydney where one of the semifinals had been whitewashed and the other one interfered.
International Women's Day at the iconic 'G kicked off with American pop star Katy Perry enthralling the crowd with her hits - Firework and Roar. And before that, there was the coin toss that landed in favour of Meg Lanning and the pitch report by Nasser Hussain and Ian Bishop.
Eventually, Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy walked in to begin the innings for the hosts and carved out a rampaging century-plus partnership to be remembered for ages. There are a flurry of fours and sixes over long-on and through covers as the pair ensured a challenging 184 for 4 for the Women in Blue.
Australia began their defense in top-class fashion removing Shafali Verma for just two and rest were written on the wall. India crumbled quickly with Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen picking seven wickets between themselves as Australia won by 86 runs after folding the visitors for just 99.
Australia won their fifth T20I World Cup while Lanning joined the likes of Michael Clarke and Lyn Larsen as Aussie skippers to lift a world title at home.
"That was unbelievable, thank you, everyone," Healy said as she collects the player of the match award. "I never thought we'd get an opportunity like this my whole career. It was something really special."
Was that even real?! pic.twitter.com/ZNOm5JGOvP— Australian Women's Cricket Team 🏏 (@AusWomenCricket) March 8, 2020
The two weeks of contest, filled with records and boundaries and emotions of joy and of sadness in defeat, eventually closed with the Australian players Roar-ing with Katy Perry in the closing ceremony. But the one thing that stood out was the figure of 86174. It is now to see how matters around women's cricket unfold, but March 8 will be remembered as the day Australia won the crowd and women's cricket won the world.