‘We know we’re being hunted’ – Mooney wants to keep winning while the going is good

replay of , Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka, Group B, Asia Cup 2022, Dubai, August 27, 2022
‘We know we’re being hunted’ – Mooney wants to keep winning while the going is good

“As many as there is out there,” Beth Mooney said when asked how many more titles Australia had left in them. And that is the key to this side’s remarkable success.

After claiming their third straight T20 World Cup title with a 19-run victory over hosts South Africa on Sunday, their sixth in the format overall and 13th when you include the ODI event, this team never tires of winning and always strives to be better.

“We don’t get tired of it,” Mooney, Player of the Match for her unbeaten 74 from 53 balls on a tricky batting surface at Newlands, said. “Something we speak about as a group is making sure we’re always evolving along the way. We’ve seen in this tournament there are teams around the world getting better and better as the years go on and we know that we’re being hunted. People are looking at us for what we do and how we go about it, so certainly it won’t last forever, but we’ll enjoy it for as long as we can and hopefully we can keep piling up those trophies.”

Yes, Australia did snuff out the host nation’s dream of winning the title after becoming the first senior South African cricket team to reach a World Cup final, but that’s what they were here for.

All tournament, there was an unsurprising admiration for Meg Lanning‘s side, which went through undefeated, mixed with unmistakeable undertones of ‘oh no, not them again’ and ‘wouldn’t it be nice if someone else won for a change?’

Sune Luus, the South Africa captain who told Australia during the on-field presentations that they were “really annoying”, even rolled her eyes when asked in her post-match press conference about the fact that it was them on the podium yet again. But she acknowledged that the Australians had long been setting the benchmark in terms of professionalism, pathways structures.

So while it can feel like the rest of the world wants Australia to apologise for being so good (we know they never, ever will) and thinks having a different winner would be good for the game, Australia’s unmatched success is equally good for the game in that it shows the way. Their domestic structure and long-established WBBL have been emulated elsewhere – notably in England and India, which holds its first WPL immediately after this tournament, as well as in the West Indies with the Women’s CPL.

Beth Mooney: Every team is evolving at a rapid pace

There are indications that the gap is closing, too. Australia were pushed by India in their semi-final, winning by just five runs, while South Africa upset England to reach the title decider.

And then Australia do something like Mooney’s dive at long-on to save two runs from Nadine de Klerk with South Africa still 23 behind with only three balls left in the match, and it’s easy to see how they stay ahead.

“The game’s never over till it’s over so I think that’s what keeps bringing us back,” Mooney said. “We fought really hard against India. It was an exciting contest but we know if we’re half a per cent off here and there in T20 World Cups, you can lose the game – so for us it’s never boring. I think we’re always in the contest and always in the fight.”

Asked how she would coach a side against Australia, Mooney joked “just don’t turn up – it’s too hard, don’t bother going” to plenty of laughter. Then she added: “I’ve played in a lot of teams – it probably starts within yourself more than anything, rather than worrying about what other people do. If I give too much away we might start getting beaten. But the good part about the game at the moment is every team is evolving at a rapid pace and the game’s evolving at a rapid pace too, so I’m really excited for what’s to come and the challenges that are ahead of us.

Alyssa Healy raised eyebrows in the lead-up to the final when she told ABC Sport in Australia that she had run Harmanpreet Kaur out in the semi-final not because Harmanpreet had been unlucky enough to get her bat stuck in the pitch short of her crease, as the India captain had contended, but because she hadn’t run fast enough or stretched far enough. It laid bare the contrast between a player capitalising on a small opportunity and one who, in Healy’s opinion, hadn’t.

Meg Lanning tops Ricky Ponting

Meanwhile, Lanning overtook Ricky Ponting as the captain with the most ICC titles, adding her fifth to the 2014, 2018 and 2020 T20 World Cup and 2022 ODI World Cup crowns. That followed her return from a five-month break from the sport.

No one was happier about Lanning’s comeback at the start of this year than Mooney, who was thrilled to have her coffee and “game-day breakfast buddy back”.

“We’re lucky, we’ve got a really good pool of talent in Australia, so it’s just about making sure that we’re always looking to evolve and stay ahead of the curve, which is becoming increasingly difficult as the game continues to grow”

Australia coach Shelley Nitschke

“When Meg retires – hopefully not for a few more years, hope you’re listening Meg – she’ll go down as one of the greatest leaders, not just in cricket but in sport and just generally as well,” Mooney said. “She’s got an immense cricket brain. She’s cool, calm and collected under pressure and she’s got empathy as well, she understands how people feel in certain situations because she’s been there before and she’s experienced a lot as a person and as a leader and as a cricketer. Absolutely she’ll go down as one of the greatest ever for our team and we’re very lucky to have her.”

This Australian team has made a seamless transition under new head coach Shelley Nitschke, who took over from Matthew Mott when he became England men’s white-ball coach last year.

Nitschke, who won her first World Cup as a player in South Africa at the 2005 ODI tournament, has come full circle with this latest victory in Cape Town, but she’s nowhere near done and neither are her players.

“The fact is that we are getting pushed and that is pushing us,” Nitschke said. “We were playing South Africa here in their first T20 World Cup final so the game just continues to grow, our challenge is to evolve with it.

“It’s about continually looking at trends in the game, looking at where we can be better and just challenging our players to continually improve. We’re lucky, we’ve got a really good pool of talent in Australia, so it’s just about making sure that we’re always looking to evolve and stay ahead of the curve, which is becoming increasingly difficult as the game continues to grow. And we saw how South Africa played today so it’s a challenge but it’s one that we’re definitely up for.”

Rest of the world, take note.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women’s cricket, at ESPNcricinfo

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