Christchurch, April 3 (PTI): Australia bossed their way to a record-extending seventh Women’s World Cup title with a crushing 71-run win over traditional rivals England, stamping their undisputed dominance in the tournament after a breathtaking hundred from Alyssa Healy in the final here on Sunday.
Playing the innings of her life, Healy put England attack to sword with a sensational 170 off 138 balls that powered Australia to a massive 356 for five.
Defending champions England needed something more than special to pull off the record chase but kept losing wickets throughout the innings which ended at 285 in 43.4 overs.
Natalie Sciver, who scored an unbeaten 148 off 121 balls for her second successive hundred against Australia in the competition, eventually ran out of partners.
Australian pacer Megan Schutt (2/42) bowled a brilliant new ball spell removing last match centurion Danielle Wyat (4) and Tammy Beaumont (27) with her lethal in-swingers before leg-spinner Alana King (3/64) turned the ball on a bating beauty to end with three crucial wickets including that of England skipper Heather Knight (26).
Healy, who was dropped on 41, toyed with the English attack in her mesmerising knock, which is now the highest-ever individual score in a World Cup final across men’s and women’s cricket.
Adam Gilchrist (149, 2007), Sciver (148 in this game), Ricky Ponting (140, 2003) and Viv Richards (138, 1979) are behind Healy in the elite list.
Healey’s opening partner Rachael Haynes (68 off 93) and Beth Mooney (62 off 47) also batted with confidence as Australia put on board the highest team total in a World Cup final in women’s cricket and second-highest behind the Australian men’s team’s effort of 359 for two against India in 2003.
To put Australia’s achievement in perspective, it was their sixth win in seven World Cup finals, making Meg Lanning’s unit one of the greatest teams of all time. Australia had won their first trophy on points back in 1973.
Though England ended runners-up, it was still a remarkable campaign for the defending champions that came into the final after five wins in a row following defeats in its first three games.
They always had run rate under control in the massive chase but the lack of partnerships cost them the game.
Sciver, who smashed 15 fours and a six in her epic knock, fought till the end alongside number 10 batter Charlotte Dean (21 off 24) but they were left to do too much in the end. The duo shared a 65 run-stand for the ninth wicket to take the game deep.
Earlier, Healy forged a 160-run stand with Haynes before sharing 156-runs with left-handed Mooney who was sent in ahead of skipper Meg Lanning to maintain the left and right combination.
A packed and a neutral crowd at Hagley Oval was in for a treat with Healy showing devastating form en route to her second consecutive hundred in the knock-out stage, having scored 129 against West Indies in the semifinal.
Healy flaunted her 360 range of strokes in a sensational effort, scoring runs at will against a bowling line-up that had no answer to her brilliance.
For the major part of her innings, Healy exposed all three stumps to make room for herself and hit bowlers over the mid-off fielder.
Healy never allowed the number one ODI bowler Sophie Eccelstone (1/71) to settle, using her feet against her and other spinners to hit them straight over the in-field.
She also cut and pulled on her way to a fifth ODI hundred and when she was bored hitting the boundaries over mid-off and cover, she moved across the off-stump to play the scoop shot.
Expecting heavy dew in the evening, defending champions England opted to put Australia in to bat.
Australia, the only unbeaten team in the tournament, came out determined to stamp their authority for one last time in the tournament and they certainly did that with the bat.
England limited the damage the last five overs by taking four wickets.
Pacer Anya Shrubsole (3/46) was the only England bowler that ended with respectable figures.
Sciver, Charlotte Dean and Kate Cross conceded more than 8 runs per over.