Australian player shows patience on slow pitch to earn game-winning 74 unanswered points and lead team to sixth T20 championship victory.
Beth Mooney has played numerous remarkable innings in T20 finals, but this one was truly exceptional. Australia was struggling to score, with no boundaries hit in the past 20 deliveries, since Beth herself had smashed a full delivery from Marizanne Kapp through mid-on in the fifth over of their Women’s T20 World Cup final against South Africa. However, Ashleigh Gardner, who was promoted to No. 3 ahead of Meg Lanning to take advantage of their potent batting lineup, broke the deadlock by hitting Nonkululeko Mlaba’s short ball through deep square leg for a four and then powered another ball, which was tossed up on off stump, through extra cover for another boundary. Following that, Gardner smashed two consecutive sixes down the ground off Nadine de Klerk, and Beth Mooney followed up with a perfectly placed gap-finding shot at cover off Ayabonga Khaka. Finally, Australia found their rhythm and started scoring freely.
Beth Mooney was the linchpin of the Australian innings, steadfastly holding things together after the successful move to promote Gardner ended with her departure after a quick 29 off 21 balls. Despite the slow start and the dismissals of Alyssa Healy (who scored 18 off a lot of deliveries), Grace Harris, and even skipper Meg Lanning – both out for just 10 – Mooney remained resolute, a role she has played many times in high-pressure matches.
Beth Mooney has been a consistent performer in high-pressure T20 finals, showcasing her batting prowess in seven such games since 2019, including three WBBL finals. In all these games, she has only fallen short of scoring fifty runs on one occasion. Her batting heroics include a perfectly paced unbeaten 78 off 54 balls in the 2020 T20 World Cup against India, which was slightly overshadowed by Alyssa Healy’s belligerent 75 off 39. Mooney also shone in the Commonwealth Games gold-medal match and the final of the 2020 home tri-series with India and England, scoring half-centuries in both games.
Beth Mooney initially had a slow start, but she responded with great timing and intelligence. In the first ten overs, she hit four fours and scored at a run-a-ball. However, she picked up the pace and scored 49 runs off 28 balls, with five fours and a six, in the last ten overs. Despite South Africa’s bowlers limiting Australia to their lowest powerplay score of the tournament at 36 for 1 after six overs, halfway through their innings, they had reached 73 for 1, which was their second-best score at the 10-over mark for the tournament, thanks in large part to Gardner’s 27 runs off 16 balls at that point.
Mooney’s innings was a display of both patience and calculated aggression on a sluggish pitch. While she patiently accumulated runs at a run-a-ball rate in the first ten overs with four well-timed fours, she also played some audacious shots, such as the scoop over short third for four and the boundary hit wide of mid-off off consecutive balls from de Klerk. She continued to rotate the strike and kept the scoreboard ticking, eventually reaching her fifty with a commanding shot through the covers off Kapp.
Mooney joked with one of her teammates that she was hitting the ball so poorly that she wanted to be retired, and even asked if the head coach could be consulted about it. However, the request didn’t reach the coach.
Mooney made the most of the advantage provided by South Africa’s slow overrate penalty, as they were allowed only three fielders outside the circle. She smashed the first ball of the final over from Shabnim Ismail long on, almost hitting the TV camera’s viewfinder. Although she was dropped by Laura Wolvaardt with three balls to go, Mooney had already done the damage. Ismail dismissed Ellyse Perry and Georgia Wareham with consecutive balls, but it was too late to stop Mooney from guiding Australia towards their sixth T20 World Cup title, their third consecutive victory, and their 13th overall across both T20 and ODI events.
Mooney’s ability to persevere in challenging situations and her wealth of experience in such scenarios were exemplified by her performance. Despite the difficult conditions, she remained composed and focused on the task at hand, while her drinks runner, Kim Garth, ultimately decided not to relay her message to coach Shelley Nitschke during the tough period.
Mooney admitted after the game that he wasn’t satisfied with the way he was striking them. It just goes to show if you hang in there long enough and get the pace of the wicket—I probably didn’t have a great plan through the middle there, stepping across and trying to hit it too square—but once I stayed a bit stiller and hit it a bit straighter, it wasn’t too bad. “I actually asked one of the girls who ran out if she could ask Shell [Shelley Nitschke] if she wanted to retire me, because I was hitting it that bad。
“I just thrive off of being able to grit my teeth and battle and probably go through those tough innings that don’t feel as good but may help the teams that I play for over the line, so I think I’ve gotten to a bit of a sweet spot with how I prepare and how comfortable I am with my game.”
According to Nitschke, Mooney’s success in delivering critical performances during important matches can be attributed to her unwavering resolve. Although the message to retire her did not reach the coach, Nitschke believes that Mooney’s ability to read the game and her determination to succeed are the key factors that enable her to excel in high-pressure situations. Nitschke acknowledges that Mooney may have struggled initially during the match, but her ability to remain focused and score runs at the end was vital for Australia’s victory. Nitschke admits that this quality cannot be taught, and she commends Mooney for her exceptional ability to persevere in challenging circumstances and make significant contributions that lead to triumph.
In addition to her impressive performance with the bat, Gardner played a crucial role with the ball in the final. She helped restrict South Africa to only 22 runs in the powerplay and took the important wicket of Kapp. Gardner’s contributions throughout the tournament did not go unnoticed, as she was named the Player of the Tournament. She finished as the joint second-highest wicket-taker with 10 wickets at an average of 12.50 and an economy rate of 6.25. This included a remarkable 5 for 12 against New Zealand. Gardner also made significant contributions with the bat, scoring 110 runs.
Mooney also gave her some glowing accolades. She has greatly grown over the past few years off the field, and Mooney believes that she is at a particularly good point in her game right now in terms of her level of comfort and confidence. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen from Ash, and she’s going to be around for a long time, so ideally she can continue to produce those games. She’s making some match-winning contributions very consistently for this Australian team.