Women's World Cup, South Africa, 2005 April 10, 2005

Simply the best



Australia have their name on the Jack Hayward trophy for a fifth time © Getty Images
Take nothing away from Australia. The outcome of this World Cup may have been as inevitable as night following day, as obvious as shrimps on the barbie, but the Australians deserve to be saluted for their professionalism and attitude. They romped to their fifth title without being defeated once; ominously for everyone else they never even looked like losing. This scenario may sound familiar - Australia's dominance in the men's game is often considered boring - but the women's example is inspirational and reflects a country where women's sport is embraced and treated equally. If only it was the same elsewhere.

Like the men, England and New Zealand are just starting to benefit from the introduction of academies but it will take time; they are still significantly behind an Australian set-up which has been in place for years. If England and New Zealand's players are semi-professionals, then Australia's players are professional in all but name. But England and New Zealand are gradually catching up.

"It's been part of our mission statement to the best fielding side in the world," said Clare Connor, England's captain. The phrase "mission statement" perfectly pinpoints England's business-like attitude and the phraseology of the men's game is further embodied through Clare Taylor talking of "putting their hands up". Looking forward, a men's approach to the game could be what's required: India struck their way into the final through effective use of hitting over the top, a rarity in the women's game. This style of play wins fans, favours and matches.

India's women, Sunday's defeated finalists, attract commercial sponsorship independently - and the crowds to boot - but none of these three teams, the only likely challengers, could match up this time.

Below the top four - who were shoo-ins for the semi-finals - there is little depth. South Africa are far from professionals but, encouragingly, their coach Stephen Jones is also talking in business language. "I believe that in the new SA, with a policy of gender equality, women's cricket is a marketable commodity."

Try telling that to the South African board, who did little to market an event which, in the end, drew predictably poor crowds. "We need to educate corporate sponsors in SA," the UCB chairman Gerald Majola said. "In fact, we have even addressed this issue with government."

South Africa talked up their chances before the tournament, playing on their home advantage and their star Johmari Logtenberg. But they could only muster a solitary win against West Indies, who had difficulties of their own. West Indies still finished above the hosts despite financial concerns that threatened their participation.

But for now let's celebrate the achievement of the Aussies, the Southern Stars, who are once more world beaters. This may well be the last World Cup for the inspirational fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick and their indomitable captain Belinda Clark, and they certainly put in a performance of note. Let's hear it for the girls.