MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s pugnacious wicketkeeper-batswoman Alyssa Healy has another claim for bragging rights in her famous cricketing family after starring in her team’s fifth Women’s Twenty20 World Cup triumph on Sunday.
Opener Healy led from the front with a brilliant 39-ball 75 as Meg Lanning’s Australia roared to an 85-run win in front of a crowd of 86,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on International Women’s Day.
Her husband Mitchell Starc, fast bowler for the Australian men’s team, was among the thrilled fans, having come home early from the tour of South Africa to watch his wife hammer the Indian bowlers.
Five years before at the same venue, Starc bowled New Zealand’s hard-hitting captain Brendon McCullum for a duck in the final of the one-day World Cup to set Australia on the path to a dominant win in front of 93,000 fans.
Her uncle Ian Healy, who kept wicket for Australia and is third on the all-time list for total dismissals in test cricket, would have beamed in pride when his niece snaffled an edge to remove India’s 16-year-old prodigy Shafali Verma for two.
Asked who had the upper hand now in the family, Alyssa Healy wasted no time in responding.
“One hundred percent me,” she told reporters, beaming.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of successful World Cup campaigns now but to do it here on home soil was always going to be incredibly difficult to do.
“I guess Mitch and I are 1-1 on that stage.”
Healy was dropped on nine by fellow opener Verma at cover and made sure India would pay.
She scored consecutive sixes off spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad and later, three sixes in succession off the hapless medium pacer Shikha Pandey to send the terraces into delirium.
By the time she was dismissed slogging spinner Radha Yadav, Healy and opening partner Beth Mooney had put 115 on the board by the 12th over.
Mooney went on with the job and went off unbeaten on 78, having driven Australia to an imposing 184 for four.
Mooney was named player of the tournament after finishing top of the runs list with 259 at an average of 64, the highest total in the tournament’s seven editions.
Although Australia have won plenty of global trophies, seeing 86,000 fans at the MCG was a first for a team that have claimed almost all of their major silverware overseas.
With the attendance easily the biggest for a women’s sporting event in the country, it felt like a watershed moment for the game and for women’s sport in general.
The Australian players, for all their brilliance, have long been overshadowed by the men’s team and their achievements only belatedly recognised.
“I don’t think that anything’s ever going to top that,” said 29-year-old Healy, who danced with her team mates on stage with American pop singer Katy Perry at the post-final concert.
“I hope that there are girls in this side that are going to experience that for a long period of time.
“But for me I never thought that we would get the opportunity to do something as cool as we did today and play in front of almost 90,000 at the MCG in a home World Cup final.
“It’s a dream come true.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Toby Davis