It was a big disappointment to watch West Indies Women as they lost by 71 runs to rivals Australia Women in the first semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 Championship in Antigua yesterday.
With all the hype surrounding the match, especially since West Indies were the defending champions and Australia were their victims by eight wickets in that memorable Final at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India two years ago, the manner in which Stafanie Taylor’s team went under was a bitter pill to swallow.
In 2016, set 149 to win, West Indies got home with three balls to spare, thanks mainly to knocks of 66 off 45 balls including six fours and three sixes by Barbadian Hayley Matthews, who was Player of the Match, and her opening partner Taylor, a Jamaican, who scored 59 off 57 balls with six fours.
Yesterday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, the target for West Indies was virtually the same – 143 – after Australia accelerated at the “death” to score 142 for five off 20 overs, having lost the toss.
West Indies were bowled out for 71 in 17.3 overs with only Taylor reaching double-figures (16) off 28 balls.
England defeated India by eight wickets with 17 balls remaining in the other semi-final.
Those who have followed the tournament closely would admit that despite winning all of their preliminary matches, batting was generally a challenge for West Indies apart from against Sri Lanka when they amassed 187 for five off 20 overs and triumphed by 83 runs.
Arguing about whether or not West Indies should have batted first against Australia is merely a matter of hindsight. Critics try to make too much out of decisions at the toss instead of dealing with what actually happens on the field.
In the back of their minds, West Indies would have known that Australia, as the No. 1 ranked team in the world, were gunning for revenge. It was a point driven home by their exciting opener and wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy, who hit the top-score of 46 off 38 balls and was also brilliant behind the stumps with three victims, earning her the Player of the Match award after she had suffered concussion in the final group match against India at Providence in Guyana.
“I’d be lying if I sat here and said we haven’t got scars after the last couple of World Cups. To be ranked No. 1 in the world and not have a trophy is sort of something we were looking to rectify,” Healy said.
“So for us to go out there and execute exactly what we wanted to do it’s just really pleasing. It’s such a proud win. And I think everyone deserves to be emotional and to be really happy about it.
“I think to come here to the West Indies, to play in front of a crowd like that that’s 99 percent going for the West Indies, we sort of thrive off that, we love being the underdogs in Australia. We don’t get to do it too often. For us to come here try to take a trophy off the West Indies was always going to be really difficult. So for us to go out there and play such a good performance today it was really special.”
Taylor said: “We didn’t bat properly in the chase. We came into the game with a lot of confidence. It was just one of those off days.
“We looked at the pitch and felt that bowling first was the better option.
“We let them get away in the last six overs but I believe as batters we didn’t bat properly. Everyone is different.”
And with the big crowds, which graced the venues, it was most fitting that Taylor acknowledged their support.
“I want to thank all the fans in St. Lucia, Guyana and here (in Antigua) for turning up and supporting us. We’re sorry that we couldn’t get past the line,” she said.
Taking a close look at the batting statistics for West Indies will surely underline the challenges.
Veteran all-rounder Deandra Dottin was their only player with over 100 runs as she also topped their averages. The versatile Barbadian scored 121 runs (ave: 24.20) and had a strike rate of 101.68.
Interestingly, all of the ten players with over 100 runs (Healy is the only one with more than 200 (203; SR: 149.26) going into Saturday’s Final have strike rates of over 100.
Dottin was also her side’s leading wicket-taker (10) with the best average of 7.70 and an economy rate of 5.63. And she is the only bowler in the tournament with ten scalps.
The batting statistics of the other main West Indies players show: Taylor 86 (ave: 17.20); Hayley Matthews 82 (ave: 16.40); Kycia Knight 78 (ave: 19.50); Natasha McLean 64 (ave: 12.80); Shemaine Campbelle 60 (ave: 15.00) and Britney Cooper 23 (ave: 5.75).
Apart from Dottin, only two others had strike rates of over 100 – Matthews (141.37) and McLean (108.47).
The combination of Matthews and Dottin as the opening pair throughout the Championship became a talking point.
After their first match against Bangladesh when they scored 106 for eight and won by 60 runs at Providence in Guyana, some impatient fans argued that Dottin should not be used as an opener although a few eventually softened their position.
The pair added 14 in 2.1 overs before Matthews fell for six off seven balls. Dottin was dismissed off the next ball, having scored eight off seven deliveries as well.
The clearly weak Bangladesh side crumbled for 46 in 14.4 overs – the lowest total by any team in Women’s World T20 – as Dottin, with her lively medium-pace, grabbed five for five off 3.4 overs – her only five-for in a T20I.
In the next match against South Africa, who lost by 31 runs at the Daren Sammy Stadium in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, the Matthews-Dottin stand managed only nine in 1.4 overs as both again failed (Matthews 8, Dottin 12).
By the third match against Sri Lanka with an opening partnership of 94 off 9.4 overs, the critics were singing a different tune as Matthews blasted 62 off 36 balls with eight fours and two sixes and Dottin made 49 off 35 balls containing eight fours.
Against England, Matthews was dismissed for one with the score also one after 1.1 overs in a chase of 116 which was achieved by four wickets with three balls remaining.
Dottin scored 46 off 52 balls, slamming four sixes and one four and Campbelle, in her best effort of the tournament, made 45 off 42 balls with four fours and one six.
Now, when one seriously analyses the West Indies batting throughout the championship, it is clear that despite losing only to Australia, there was a lack of consistently high scores from the main players.
Taylor’s best score was 41 off 25 balls with four fours and two sixes against England. Twice she fell for “ducks” and seemed somewhat out of sorts for the outstanding player she is.
Bottom line is that when it really mattered, the first three in the batting order – Matthews, Dottin and Taylor – all failed and the others could not handle the pressure.
Glum faces and tears from some of the West Indies players told the story.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com