When you break the record for the highest ever women's T20I score, you're a good shot at taking the win, and Australia did just that in the final of the Paytm Tri-Series. With the hosts, India not making the final Australia and England reprised their recent battles, and unlike the drawn Ashes series this was a very one-sided affair.
The day started poorly for England with captain Heather Knight being ruled out with injury, however, things could have been different after Beth Mooney fell for a duck to a tough LBW decision in the first over. From that point, it was all Australia. Alyssa Healy and Ash Gardiner casually bashed their way to a 61-run partnership off just 7 overs, and when they both fell to Jenny Gunn, this just brought Meg Lanning and Elyse Villani together. What followed was sheer carnage, 139 runs together off just 73 balls - 51 to Villani and a brutal 88* off 45 balls to Lanning, 16 fours and 1 six, 4/209 being the final total to break South Africa's record of 204 against Ireland. No English bowler was spared; the most economical bowler being Gunn with 2/38 and economy of 9.50. Australia was also helped by some atrocious fielding by England - while their catching wasn't great, their ground fielding was abysmal, multiple boundaries being let through with fumbles on the rope.
In reply, the English innings stumbled at the key moments. Bryony Smith was run out for a diamond duck in the first over, and Ellyse Perry picked up Tammy Beaumont for a golden duck in the second over. If any two batters could get England over the line, it would be Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver, and things looked on track for the first five overs with Wyatt smacking 34 off 17 balls before smacking a drive off Delissa Kimmince straight to Lanning. Sciver was left to hold the innings together by herself and while she made it to her half-century, only two other English bats made double figures. Regular wickets were picked up through the innings with the quicks doing most of the damage for Australia - three late wickets for Megan Schutt, two for Kimmince and one for Perry, plus two for the off-spin of Gardner. The Australian field was also in sharp contrast to the English with Perry, Mooney and Rachael Haynes brilliant on the boundary - one diving save from Mooney to save four particularly memorable. England limped to 9/152, a crushing 57 run win to Australia to take out the Tri-Series.
With a World T20 fast approaching at the end of the year, this was an important series for all three sides to explore the player depth and fine-tune combinations. How did each team fare?
It's easy to sum up the good for Australia - eight international matches in the tour of India (three ODIs, 5 T20Is) for seven wins - a clean sweep of the ODIs against India and only one loss in the T20I Tri-Series. Debuts and vital experience was handed to young guns Sophie Molineux and Nicola Carey, plenty of runs were scored from the top and middle order, Kimmince emerged as a solid third quick behind Schutt and Perry, and most importantly of all Lanning made a successful return from shoulder surgery after missing the entire Women's Ashes and WBBL.
It's hard to find too many faults here. The only loss was to England and a great batting performance from Beaumont and Sciver - beaten by a better team on the day. Gardner and Healy would have preferred a few more runs, but they still scored their runs at strike rates of 172 and 136 respectively, so hard to complain. Jess Jonassen was uncharacteristically quiet with just two wickets in five matches but remains an integral part of the side.
In the last year, Megan Schutt has grown in stature with every game and is now one of the premier pace bowlers in the world. Deservedly named Player of the Series with 9 wickets at an average of 12.33 and economy of just 6.28 - almost always picks up an early wicket, and then reliable to shut things down in the death overs.
Megan Lanning would not be far behind - in four innings she wasn't dismissed, scoring 175 runs at a strike rate 162 and becoming the first Australian, male or female, to score 2000 T20I runs. Her 88* in the final obliterated England and ensured Australia would win their first T20I series in nearly three years.
England arrived in India with big names such as Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor and Katherine Brunt missing and pressure being on several young players to step in to their shoes. They hit the ground running, winning their first two matches to secure a spot in the final and in the process putting together a record women's T20I chase of 3/199 against India - their experienced bats of Wyatt, Beaumont and Sciver all stepping up.
From there the wheels fell off for England - bowled out for 97 and 107 against Australia and India respectively, then the capitulation to Lanning and Australia in the final. It's hard to say what happened to their batting, but the disintegration of their fielding was particularly notable and showed how shot their confidence was by the end of the series.
Danni Wyatt showed again that she is a T20 superstar – how she wasn’t picked up by a franchise in the recent WBBL is still a mystery. With 213 runs she was the highest run scorer for the series; her 124 to power England to their record chase came off just 64 balls and made her only the second player ever to score two WT20I tons behind Deandra Dottin.
After coming home from a successful series in South Africa there would have been high hopes for the Indian set-up. Instead, it has turned out to be a tough time for them, being white-washed 3-0 by Australia in the ODIs and only winning one game in the T20I series. However, there was enough shown by their two young batting stars, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues, to highlight that the future is bright for Indian cricket. Rodrigues in particular was impressive considering she is just 17 years old and made her maiden international 50 against Australia.
Mithali Raj has been a giant in women’s cricket for many years, but time may just be catching up with her, at least in the T20 format. In four matches in the series she only managed 77 runs, with 53 of them coming in one innings – but more concerning is her strike rate of just 89.53, the lowest of any player to have a score over 50 runs in the tournament and not good enough for modern T20s.
Smriti Mandhana lived up to her billing as the future superstar of Indian women's cricket – four matches, three half-centuries and 208 runs, the second highest in the series. Her strike rate of 165 showed her power and her 36 boundaries was the equal most.
What was your favourite moment of the T20I Tri-Series? Let us know in the comments below!