KOLKATA – The talk before the match was about a dynasty. “Fourpeat”, a Frankenstein’s monster of a word, had to be created because nothing available was good enough to describe what Australia were about to do. Or at least, what they were supposed to do.
Australia have had some untouchable cricket teams and, without doubt, this is another. But none of their men’s or women’s team had won four ICC trophies in a row. That was the job of this side. They already had three. Now they had to “fourpeat”.
At the midway stage, Australia were in the ascendancy. Their talismanic skipper Meg Lanning wanted something above 160. Half-centuries from her and Elyse Villani looked to have knocked the wind out of West Indies, who looked ragged with the ball and nervous in the field. The “fourpeat” was on – the dynasty ready to be showered in the goldest gold never been seen before.
Then a teenager blew it to bits.
Hayley Matthews is just like every other teenager you know or were. She was nervous in front of the cameras in her post-match interview. Between every “ermmm” there was a grin: the sort of grin a teenager pulls when they have done something they know they shouldn’t have.
She’s obsessed with Pringles crisps and segway hoverboards – the ones which require you to stand on them and simply shift your weight forwards or back to move. They are contraptions that have been criticised for promoting laziness in kids, promoting inactiveness by almost encouraging them not to use their legs. Today, Matthews hit 42 of her 66 runs in boundaries. Maybe they have a point.
But Matthews is no ordinary teenager. Certainly not now that she has become the youngest player to score a half-century in a World T20 final.
She is a promising track and field athlete, to the extent that she had to make a choice as to whether it would take precedence over cricket. Usually, it’s a simple decision for a Bajan to make. But Matthews considered her options and, while part of her was intrigued as to where the track might lead, she wants to go as far as possible in cricket.
It’s a snapshot into her mindset: always thinking about what she can do better. She is notoriously harsh on her own game, putting pressure on herself to always score runs. The fact that she had never scored a T20I fifty was getting to her, especially after a string of low scores and a 41 against Bangladesh at this tournament. She spent the winter in the Women’s Big Bash League at Hobart Hurricanes. She scored 195 runs, with a highest score of 77. She didn’t pull up trees but she improved her game and won a lot of friends
West Indies chase of 149 started slowly. After two overs, they only had three on the board. Another time, Matthews might have panicked. But with her captain Stafanie Taylor at the other end, each mid-pitch meeting had a calm vibe. The message was to stay out there as long as possible. When Kristen Beams bowled a flat half-tracker, Matthews belted it to Alex Blackwell at deep midwicket and then thumped the ground in a strop. She’d managed 15.4 overs and that, in the end, was enough.
The fours were high quality, but you had to see the sixes. Megan Schutt, one of Australia’s bowlers so experienced under pressure, sent down her patented inswinger on middle and leg. Matthews skipped down and smashed it over midwicket. Then Ellyse Perry, herself a high-level, multi-talented sportswoman, was sent back over her head and quite literally into the stands.
Australia started to wrestle back some impetus. In T20, when wickets are hard to come by, dot balls can bail you out of trouble: 19 balls passed without a boundary. Then Matthews ended the sequence by carting Jess Jonassen’s left-arm spin over midwicket and then slapping her for four through point the ball after.
For the first time ever, a team other than Australia, England or New Zealand had won a world event. West Indies broke up the cartel by chasing an improbable target against one of women’s cricket’s greatest ever teams.
When the tournament started, Hayley Matthews was 17 and, legally, not allowed to buy alcohol. It ends with her 18 and covered in champagne.