In-form foes in final grudge match
The men's World Twenty20 final is a match-up of long-standing adversaries and so is the women's. As either Paul Collingwood or Michael Clarke will be swigging the champagne, Australia and New Zealand will be slugging it out for their silverware and both captains have called on the supporters to stay around at the Kensington Oval and see what the women's game offers.
Last year in England the semis and final were held before the men's encounters, which worked superbly as good-sized crowds arrived early to watch. This time, largely due to TV scheduling issues, they will play second and could have a lot to live up to after the likes of David Warner, Kevin Pietersen and Shaun Tait have held centre stage.
"The men's game might be the highlight for some, but for us it's this one that matters," Aimee Watkins, the New Zealand captain, said. "Hopefully some will hang around and will be able to see what women's cricket has to offer as it's improved a lot in the last 18 months."
Alex Blackwell, Australia's skipper, believes this tournament has continued to raise the bar. "With the standard of cricket all the teams have played means it will be a great match," she said. "Whoever decides to stay around after the men's final, I'm sure they'll see some brilliant hitting and fielding. The standard of women's cricket has improved and is actually a very good game to watch at the moment."
One aspect where the game has clearly progressed, and has benefited from Twenty20, is in the striking power of the players. Earlier in the tournament, West Indian Deandra Dottin hit a hundred from 37 deliveries as the hosts created a surprise by securing a semi-final berth as they dumped out defending champions England.
In the knockout match between New Zealand and West Indies Sara McGlashan crashed her way to 84 off 55 balls with six fours and two sixes. "Our key has been our power hitting, especially in the semi-final when we put on quite a few towards the end of the innings," Watkins said. "That's our gameplan, to have a solid base for the final overs. I think we added about 120 in the last 12 overs against West Indies and it's one of our strengths."
Blackwell thinks that Twenty20 is helping the women's product expand beyond the traditionally strong nations. "It has evolved our game," Blackwell said. "Twenty20 cricket is a big part of our programme now and we are all looking at improving ourselves in that format. Women's cricket has strengthened very quickly over the last few years and to see West Indies come through as they did was fantastic."
On Sunday the two finalists will only be thinking of themselves. Australia against New Zealand in any sport is a grudge match. Earlier this year the sides shared results on either end of scale with New Zealand taking the Twenty20s 5-0 while Australia finished the ODIs with an 8-0 advantage.
"We've had a good rivalry over the past 30-40 years," Watkins said. "It makes it special to have a final between New Zealand and Australia and just adds that little edge considering we know each other so well and each other's games inside out.
Blackwell added: "It's really fitting that it's the two form teams going into the final and it will be an excellent match. It will be very hard fought."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo