What we learned from the women's Twenty20 World Cup

Melbourne (AFP) –


The Twenty20 World Cup culminated on Sunday with hosts Australia beating India by 85 runs in front of a record crowd for a women's cricket match in Melbourne.

Here are five things we learned from 17 days of pulsating action:

- Home heroes deliver -

Australia's star-studded team went into the tournament carrying the weight of expectations on home soil as four-time winners and defending champions.

After a shock defeat to India in their opening game, skipper Meg Lanning read the riot act and they didn't slip up again, reinforcing their dominance of the sport.

In their sixth final out of seven in the global showpiece, Australia won for a fifth time with a near flawless performance.

"There was definitely some tough times through there but we stuck together as a group, we really just had each other's back the whole time and it's just a great group to be a part of," said Lanning.

- Interest rises -

The popularity of women's cricket has been steadily on the rise, with the tournament widely seen as taking it to a new level.

More than 86,000 fans swarmed through the turnstiles of the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Australia play India in the final -- a record for a women's cricket game.

The event also marked another move toward gender equality with prize money significantly boosted, although it still fell short of the amount the men receive.

To counter this, Cricket Australia pledged a further US$600,000 to ensure parity if Australia were to win.

Ahead of the final, the International Cricket Council launched a new campaign to attract one million new women and girls to the game in the next 12 months.

- Teenage star shines -

Fearless 16-year-old Shafali Verma came into the tournament promising so much, and she left with her reputation cemented as a future superstar of the game.

She anchored India at the top of the order, playing some breathtaking strokes in racking up scores of 29, 39, 46 and 47 in the group stages, hitting more sixes than anyone else as she injected urgency into the team.

While she misfired in the final, her exploits propelled her to the top of the ICC T20 batting rankings, only the second Indian after Mithali Raj to achieve the feat.

"She brings so much happiness and positivity to the team, always wants to enjoy it," captain Harmanpreet Kaur said of Verma.

- Rain rethink -

The International Cricket Council came in for stinging criticism for not factoring in a reserve day for the rain-affected semi-finals.

England's clash with India was washed out, sending India through to the final as the highest finisher in their group.

"You'd hope now there is going to be a rule change... and moving forward, no other team will have to experience going out of a World Cup purely because of rain," said "gutted" England skipper Heather Knight.

Australia's semi against South Africa went ahead, but the Proteas' run chase was also affected by the weather. If it too had been abandoned, South Africa would have made the final.

"I'd rather lose than get a free pass into the World Cup final," said skipper Dane van Niekerk.

- Smiles and promise -

Thailand came into their inaugural tournament as an unknown quantity, but won over fans with not only gutsy performances, but their smiles and graciousness.

After struggling in their opening three games, they put together an imposing 150 for 3 against Pakistan, their highest score in T20s, before rain ruined hopes of a maiden World Cup win.

Skipper Sornnarin Tippoch said it had been a learning curve and their final game was a statement of what to expect in the future.

"I think that game really put things into perspective of how well we can deal with situations and how well we prepared for the tournament," she said.

"We couldn't control the rain but I'm really happy how we controlled the innings and built that innings, making a statement of how we can play cricket."