For almost two years England's women have dominated Twenty20 cricket. They came to the World Cup as huge favourites and spent a fortnight demonstrating precisely why.
But a sequence of 30 matches in which they suffered only two defeats and four consecutive victories in this competition counted for nothing yesterday. In a stirring, if error-riddled contest, it was Australia who prevailed by four runs in the final to retain their title.
England hung on until the very end, refusing to concede what looked to be the inevitable for most of their pursuit. Australia made slightly too many runs, England lost too many wickets and simply had too much to do.
Needing 23 from the final two overs with only two wickets in hand to overhaul their opponents' 142 for 4, England swung and run and harried. There was hope even with a ball left and six wanted but Danielle Hazell, Durham's finest, could not manage the elevation on the leg-side full toss that came her way.
Australia were jubilant, aware that they had pulled off a coup of considerable proportions. They had lost to England in the group stages, failing to defend a total of 147, but despite dropping three catches they were always in control of this tie.
Charlotte Edwards, the England captain, said: "Australia were better than us today. We were under par with the ball and the first six overs were probably the difference. Our lack of discipline up front really cost us."
It should be of no small consolation to Edwards and her colleagues, as well as the triumphant Australians, that the match was a gripping and entertaining affair.
There had been too many predictable encounters in the women's competition before this and it needed a match which was not only close but provided a showcase for the undoubted skills that the top female cricketers possess.
That it did both can only encourage the growth of the game not only in England but the rest of the world. If there were too many lapses in the field and more poor strokes than a match of this status merited that is also, conversely, the nature of finals and perhaps of T20. Equally, there was plenty for a global television audience to enjoy and to admire. This included clever use of angles, the occasional spectacular intervention in the field and a determination to see it through.
Oh and for those who like a bit of biff, bang, wallop in their T20 there were three sixes, two of them to England.
"I've just said to the Australian girls that I'd much rather play in a final like that, with six wanted off the final ball and with some of the shots we saw out there, it was a great spectacle for the women's game," said Edwards. "It's disappointing now but when I look back on it a few weeks time I hope I'll be very proud."
England appeared to be consumed by nerves at the start. Their ground fielding was hesitant and their bowling too short and wide. It allowed Australia to romp away with a series of boundaries. Katherine Brunt, the Yorkshire fast bowler, appeared to be overwhelmed by the occasion.
"They didn't seem nervous in the dressing room," said Edwards. "I didn't pick up on it but it probably did show a little bit too much."
Australia's first wicket put on 51 off 41 balls and it was a surprise when Meg Lanning chipped a return catch to the left-arm spinner Holly Colvin in her first over. When the other opener, Alyssa Healy, was bowled essaying a pull shot, Jess Cameron ensured that Australia continued to rattle along. Cameron followed a six over cow corner – it travelled 70 metres – with a deft reverse scoop.
She and Lisa Sthalaker put on 51 off 36 balls. It was Cameron who was to pick up the player-of-the-match award but Sthalaker, who added two wickets in four parsimonious overs to her assertive unbeaten 23 off 26 balls, must have run her mighty close.
For England to win, it seemed as though one of their two best batsmen, Edwards or Sarah Taylor, had to play a substantial innings. In the event both flattered to deceive.
Edwards played her usual role of hitting early boundaries and, although Australia blocked off a favoured scoring area square on the off side, she found mid-wicket to her liking and was cruising along. When she-under clubbed to be caught at wide mid-wicket it was over to the richly-gifted Taylor.
She too looked in splendid form but in Australia there is a belief that if they want a wicket they merely have to ask the fast bowler, Ellyse Perry. Duly summoned, she bowled a tempting away swinger at which Taylor aimed a drive, only to edge a catch behind.
It was a shot that did not need to be played with so many overs left but Taylor doubtless fell prey to the demands of the scoreboard. From that moment on it seemed that England were destined to lose, but somehow they kept the target in sight. Jenny Gunn played a breezy innings and, when she hit a six down the ground, realistic hope stirred again.
Hazell was also not to be daunted and when Australia had the line in sight they almost froze. A no-ball in the final over was immediately followed by the dropping of a sitter. It was Australia's turn to hang on and deservedly they did.
AUSTRALIA 142-4 ENGLAND 138-9
Australia win by four runs
(One Day): Australia Women beat England Women by four runs
Australia Women won toss
M M Lanning c & b Colvin 25
24 balls 4 fours
A J Healy b Hazell 26
25 balls 3 fours
J E Cameron c Gunn b Colvin 45
34 balls 1 six 5 fours
L C Sthalekar not out 23
26 balls 1 four
A J Blackwell run out 13
12 balls 1 four
Extras (lb1 w8 nb1) 10
Total (for 4, 20 overs) 142
Fall: 1-51, 2-68, 3-119, 4-142.
Did Not Bat: *†J M Fields, R L Haynes, E A Osborne, J L Hunter, E A Perry, J L Jonassen.
Bowling: K H Brunt 2-0-20-0, D Hazell 4-0-23-1, D N Wyatt 3-0-20-0, A Shrubsole 3-0-31-0, H L Colvin 4-0-21-2, L A Marsh 4-0-26-0.
*C M Edwards c Perry b Sthalekar 28
23 balls 1 six 4 fours
L A Marsh c & b Hunter 8
14 balls 2 fours
†S J Taylor c Fields b Perry 19
16 balls 2 fours
L S Greenway c Hunter b Jonassen 4
A Brindle b Sthalekar 13
12 balls 2 fours
D N Wyatt c Blackwell b Jonassen 9
J L Gunn c Jonassen b Hunter 19
14 balls 1 six 1 four
K H Brunt b Jonassen 3
D Hazell not out 16
13 balls 1 four
H L Colvin run out 8
5 balls 1 four
A Shrubsole not out 0
Extras (b2 lb2 w6 nb1) 11
Total (for 9, 20 overs) 138
Fall: 1-20, 2-44, 3-61, 4-63, 5-86, 6-90, 7-101, 8-120, 9-137.
Bowling: E A Perry 4-0-24-1, L C Sthalekar 4-0-16-2, J L Hunter 4-0-36-2, E A Osborne 4-0-33-0, J L Jonassen 4-0-25-3.
Umpires: B F Bowden and M Erasmus.
Facts in figures
2: Number of defeats suffered by England in 26 Twenty20 matches
10.33: Anya Shrubsole's economy rate in yesterday's final
4: Dropped catches by Australia during yesterday's final
172: Runs scored by Player of the Tournament Charlotte EdwardsReuse content