Was this the greatest World Cup final ever?

Rick Eyre

December 23, 2000

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There have been many one-day games won and lost in the final over and won and lost by four runs or less. But few had the importance, the occasion, the drama of today's final of the 2000 CricInfo Women's World Cup.

Today's game - won by New Zealand by four runs with five balls remaining - was filled to the brim with drama and tension. For me, it surpasses the encounter at Lord's in 1975 between the West Indies and Australia as the greatest World Cup Final, men's or women's, of all time. It may even surpass the 1999 semi-final at Edgbaston, the tied match between Australia and South Africa, as the greatest World Cup match of all.

It was a game with almost everything. A match which, on form, Australia should have won comfortably - and looked like they would when New Zealand crumbled to be all out for 184.

But New Zealand quickly took the ascendancy with the early removal of the two outstanding batsmen of the tournament, Lisa Keightley and Karen Rolton. Belinda Clark, whose World Cup with the bat started shakily but gathered momentum as the tournament progressed, played an elegant and controlled innings. She dominated the Australian fightback, scoring roughly threequarters of her team's runs while she was at the crease.

Clark was playing the innings of her life and steering Australia to its fifth Women's World Cup... until she was on 91. She attempted a sweep to a ball that many less talented players would have chosen to drive on the onside - and was bowled around her legs. It was a masterpiece of an innings, yet in the end so tantalisingly futile.

And with the wickets tumbling and Australia's required run-rate hovering around the run-a-ball mark, there was the most sensational of events at the start of the 49th over when Cathryn Fitzpatrick's leg bail fell to ground some time after the ball has passed through to the keeper. Had the ball brushed the stump or did the wind blow? The third umpire, after a long, long look, gave Fitzpatrick out bowled.

With the first ball of the fiftieth over, the seventh World Cup reached its climax, as Charmaine Mason got a faint nick to a ball from Clare Nicholson which was taken by Rebecca Rolls. New Zealand, the host team, the underdogs of this final, had come from behind to win the most important title in the nation's cricketing history.

The game was also a fitting farewell to two of the legends of New Zealand's women's cricket, Debbie Hockley and Catherine Campbell.

A four-run victory to New Zealand, and it is just as well that the stray plastic cup inside the boundary rope this morning, shaving two runs off a certain Kiwi boundary, didn't make a difference.

In a World Cup tournament which has been very predictable in its overall results (though never, I hasten to add, dull), the joyous unpredictability of the sport came home to roost on the final day. The form side of the tournament, and indeed one of the great national teams in the history of Australian women's sport, had been held to second-best on the day when it really mattered.

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Tournament Results
NZ Women v Aus Women at Lincoln - Dec 23, 2000
NZ Women won by 4 runs
NZ Women v India Women at Lincoln - Dec 20, 2000
NZ Women won by 9 wickets (with 139 balls remaining)
Aus Women v SA Women at Lincoln - Dec 18, 2000
Aus Women won by 9 wickets (with 112 balls remaining)
Aus Women v Neth Women at Lincoln - Dec 16, 2000
Aus Women won by 10 wickets (with 156 balls remaining)
Ire. Women v SA Women at Christchurch - Dec 16, 2000
SA Women won by 9 wickets (with 82 balls remaining)
More results »
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News | Features Last 3 days