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March 5, 2007
If you saw her walking down the road you wouldn't guess she was the fastest bowler in women's cricket. If you saw her open the bowling for Australia, hurling the ball down the pitch at a most uncomfortable pace, you wouldn't imagine she was 39. And if you watched her in the Quadrangular final between Australia and New Zealand you'd wonder why she had decided to retire from international cricket.
Cathryn Fitzpatrick got 2 for 27 in her 10 overs, held two catches, and effected a run-out in Australia's six-wicket win over New Zealand at Chennai. When she bowled Maria Fahey in the first over New Zealand should have felt the ground shaking beneath their feet. "Maria has been one of New Zealand's key players in this tournament," Fitzpatrick told Cricinfo. "She is an unsung hero, really. If she gets a start she is likely to a half-century at least, so it was nice to get her early."
But after the first wicket fell Australia seemed to lose the plot and Haidee Tiffen, the New Zealand captain, formed a 53-run partnership with Suzie Bates. If it wasn't bad enough that Tiffen was beating the fielders and getting boundaries, Australia dropped Bates three times in her innings - twice off Fitzpatrick. But Fitzpatrick kept her resolve and, in the 14th over - as Tiffen ran for a single from the non-striker's end - she scooped up the ball from mid-off and threw it to the keeper to dismiss Tiffen for 33. "No one drops catches deliberately," she said. "You can't keep thinking of the missed chances because then you won't be able to get on with the game."
On her retirement Fitzpatrick said that one couldn't go on and on forever. "You have to retire [at] some time. I will go back to Australia and finish off with some club cricket. Apart from that I haven't given much thought to what I will do now."
Tiffen said that the run out had come at a bad time for New Zealand. "It was unnecessary, she said. "Bates and me had got a 50-run partnership and were just getting settled." She conceded that Australia had entirely outplayed New Zealand. "It was disappointing, of course. We didn't score enough or bowl well enough."
New Zealand will play Australia again in July in a five-match series at Darwin for the Rose Bowl trophy. Tiffen said that the side was looking forward to it as they were yet to play a game in Darwin. "We enjoy playing each other. There is a healthy rivalry between the two sides which is great for our cricket and women's cricket in general."
But Lisa Sthalekar, the Player of the Tournament, as the highest run-scorer - 394 runs at 98.50 - said Australia had realised that the other countries weren't very far from them in terms of quality. "Scores of 260 are becoming a regular feature," she said. "One of the reasons for such scores could be integration of the boards which has helped us train and play in better facilities. Also, the girls have got stronger."
After a thrilling last match, a decider that Australia won off the last ball against India, the final was a disappointment to watch. But for Australia and Fitzpatrick it was a win as memorable as it was convincing.