Relentless Australia will be out to underline their credentials as one of game’s greatest sides against a battle-hardened England unit that will also seek greatness in a blockbuster ICC Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.
Both England and Australia have been marching towards the big day in their own way. Defending champions England have been emboldened by an incredible turnaround that saw them prevail in five must-win games after losing their first three matches of the tournament.
While the Australians, gunning for a record seventh world title, have been on a roll extending their winning streak to 11 matches. Interestingly, despite having won 10 of the previous 11 World Cups between them, England and Australia will face off in an ICC World Cup final for the first time in 34 years.
The two sides started their campaigns together almost a month ago in Hamilton and will end them together, one holding the trophy, the other looking on at the Hagley Oval. Australia have lost only one World Cup final but it was not too far away from the setting for Sunday’s finale. Back in 2000, just down the road from Christchurch at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln, Australia lost the closest final the tournament has ever seen, defeated by New Zealand by just four runs.
That year, England recorded their worst-ever World Cup finish of fifth before fighting back to take the trophy from Australia in 2009. In doing so, they would go on to have a remarkable year also claiming their first, and only, T20 World Cup as well as an Ashes victory.
It is something that Australia are hoping to match 13 years later, as they already hold the T20 trophy having secured that on home soil in 2020 before the Ashes were wrapped up with two games to spare in February, but the one-day World Cup evades them.
Vice-captain Rachael Haynes already has a winner’s medal from 2013, and she is well on her way to a competition record, the opening batter sitting on 429 runs for the tournament, 27 behind Debbie Hockley of New Zealand’s all-time best set in 1997.
That is not the only record that could be broken on Sunday as left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone has the chance to surpass Australian Lyn Fullston, whose haul of 23 wickets in 1982 remains the mark to beat. Ecclestone sits on 20 wickets having taken her maiden international five-wicket haul in the semi-final win against South Africa ending on six for 36, the best figures by an England bowler in a World Cup.
The left-arm spinner is emblematic of England’s journey throughout the tournament in that she is peaking at exactly the right time. The 22-year-old started with her worst-ever figures in ODI cricket with no wicket for 77 against Australia.
It highlighted just how shaky a start England had; dropped catches allowed Australia to put on 310 for three in the opening game before more fielding woes gave the West Indies a famous win. South Africa defeated England for the first time in a World Cup for 22 years to leave the defending champions reeling with three defeats from their first three games as their four remaining clashes became must-win.
And win they did, defeating India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh to book their place in the knockouts and set up a rematch of the 2017 semi-final with South Africa. England saw off the Proteas comfortably to keep their hopes of a fifth title alive, and Ecclestone praised captain Heather Knight’s leadership as she guided her side back from the brink.
Knight has the chance to create history as the first England captain to guide her side to back-to-back trophies. Australia’s star all-rounder Ellyse Perry is on track to take her place in the showpiece, having missed the team’s last two matches in New Zealand with a back issue. She underwent two crunch training sessions in Christchurch ahead of the final.