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Lanning believes final will come down to 'holding your nerve under pressure'

However, South Africa head coach Hilton Moreeng said "whoever wants it most will have it tomorrow"

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
25-Feb-2023
Meg Lanning broke into a knowing smile when it was put to her on the eve of her fifth T20 World Cup final as Australia captain that the team who wants it more will win the trophy.
"I think it'd be pretty even in terms of how much each team wants to win, there's no doubt about that," Lanning said. "I personally think it comes down to holding your nerve under pressure and executing your skills as best you can when the pressure's on. That's where it's going to be decided."
It had been Hilton Moreeng, the South Africa head coach, who had suggested desire would prove crucial when trying to explain that his side needed no added motivation to switch from celebrating a surprise semi-final victory over England to take on the defending champions and overwhelming title favourites.
"We know we're playing against a tough opposition," Moreeng said. "But as history has it, that is just history - tomorrow it's a new day. So once again, whoever wants it most will have it tomorrow."
Both sides have had to prove that they can withstand intense pressure to reach the final - South Africa's first at any senior cricket World Cup, men's or women's. Australia were pushed by India before prevailing by five runs while the hosts held their nerve, and their catches, to beat England by six runs.
And Lanning believed that was a good thing. "The two semi-finals were incredible games," she said. "Some high heart rates out there, on the field and off the field, and it would have been some incredible viewing for the fans out there. Hopefully, it's the same again tomorrow. We're expecting a very close game. There's going to be moments of momentum with us and with South Africa as well, and it's just about riding those waves and then when you get the opportunity to really put the foot down, we need to make sure we're ready to take that.
"I think we've got a little bit of improvement in us from the semi-final. We know the conditions now and what works, and our bowling group has been fantastic throughout the tournament. So we've planned, and we're ready to execute as best we can, and I feel like if we can do that, then I have full belief that we'll be able to get the job done."
"South Africa obviously are playing really good cricket, you know once you get to a World Cup final, you've beaten some good teams and you're playing well so that's what we're expecting tomorrow. They're riding a wave of emotion as well, so we're certainly prepared for that."
Meg Lanning
Australia and South Africa met in a nerve-jangling semi-final at the last edition, with the hosts defying the Sydney rain to bat their 20 overs and then defend 97 runs off 13 overs after more showers intervened. Australia scraped through by five runs under the DLS method, and Lanning was player of the match for her 49 not out. Australia had also lost their opening match of their home tournament to India, so Lanning believes her side knows all about being put under pressure.
But a side as mentally tough as Australia, with a proven track record in clinching matches - they are seeking a sixth T20 World Cup title in their seventh straight final appearance - will back themselves, even without the support of an 80,000-plus home crowd at the MCG. That's despite going in with the weight of expectation on them and knowing that the nearly 13,000 fans expected at a sold-out Newlands will be overwhelmingly behind their opposition this time.
"There's pressure on everyone, it's a World Cup final, there's no guarantee," Lanning said. "South Africa obviously are playing really good cricket, you know once you get to a World Cup final, you've beaten some good teams and you're playing well, so that's what we're expecting tomorrow. They're riding a wave of emotion as well, so we're certainly prepared for that."
Six months ago, it was uncertain whether Lanning would be in South Africa after announcing that she was taking an indefinite break from cricket for personal reasons. That was after she had led Australia to the ODI World Cup title and the Commonwealth Games gold in 2022. On Saturday, she sounded like someone who had come full circle when asked about how it felt to be back now.
"It's really exciting, I can't wait to get out and play, these are the games that you want to be involved in," she said. "It's just an exciting time for the team, World Cup finals, you have to make the most of them, you never know when your next chance might be, so I'm staying relaxed, enjoying the opportunity, really embracing it and everything that comes with it and I can't wait to get out here and play in front of, hopefully, a packed crowd.
"Whether they're cheering for us or not, it doesn't really matter, it's just going to be an incredible atmosphere and event, and I can't wait to get out there."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo