Photo Credit: ICC
Alyssa Healy has the nickname Midge due to being short in stature but make no mistake, she is a big-game player.
And she proved that yet again with a knock of 129 against the West Indies to power Australia into the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 final.
Australia have been utterly dominant throughout this tournament, but it has often been without Healy’s help.
Twice Healy has made 72 in the tournament, against Pakistan and India, but had added only 66 runs from the five other group games.
In the semi-final she vanquished any demons she may have had to make her first World Cup century and spearhead a comprehensive 157-run victory.
And it was a different kind innings from the ones Healy has made us accustomed to seeing from her – when she made 75 off just 39 balls in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final in 2020 she started with a four off her first all and earned two more in the same over.
That was an innings right out of the Healy playbook, in comparison in Wellington she was practically pedestrian at the start.
Against the West Indies, she went the entire nine-over powerplay without a boundary, but it showed that not only has her position in the batting risen, so has her ability to time an innings.
During the innings break, she said: “I’d hope I’d learned my lesson by now that it doesn’t always have to happen at once! But I like batting with Rach [Haynes], she’s a calming influence.
“We knew that if we just invested a bit of time, we’d be able to cash in and we did just that.”
‘Did just that’ is perhaps a fair description of what Healy and Rachael Haynes did, their run-making simple and unflustered.
Their hundred-partnership arrived bang on the 20-over mark, the 200 came up only 11.1 overs later.
The dynamic duo traded singles as they edged towards their fifties, Haynes’ coming first off 66 balls, Healy’s brought up one of her own four balls later from 63 deliveries.
Haynes was then dropped twice in the space of two Karishma Ramharack overs, and while it may have steadied her scoring, it seemed to light a fuse in Healy.
She cracked a six off Ramharack’s next over and six deliveries later reached her hundred.
In the deliveries leading up to her maiden World Cup ton, Healy was as patient as she was when sitting on 11 from 29 balls.
Her restraint paid off as she pushed a single through the off-side to bring up her century, she waved her bat in appreciation to the Basin Reserve crowd before it was back to business.
Healy was eventually the first wicket to fall, substitute Shakera Selman taking the diving catch, by then the damage was done as Australia had plundered 216 runs in just 32.4 overs.
But still, Healy showed some frustration at not having gone even bigger.
Perhaps her frustration came from letting her average in ODIs tick to just under 50, she now sits at 49.35, but it is a remarkable turnaround from the 2017 World Cup.
When Australia were knocked out of the World Cup semi-final by India five years ago, Healy was batting down at seven and averaging just 15.96.
Opening the batting from the 2017 Women’s Ashes onwards saw her move from a frustrated cricketer to a free one.
She admitted: “Being given an opportunity at the top does help that but I think it’s more about self-belief and confidence every time you walk out to bat.
“For me, that’s really just what changed. I was given a role, I was given a purpose and a responsibility and I really enjoyed that.
“Knowing that you’re being backed, gives you a little bit of self-confidence as well. That’s really been the shift for me and learning how to build in innings in ODI cricket is something that I never really got the opportunity to do, coming in for the back 10 overs, just trying to slog away like I do in T20 cricket.
“It’s been a learning curve over the last five years, but I’ve really enjoyed being given that responsibility at the top of the order.
“I love facing some of the best bowlers in the world, it’s always a good challenge. From that side of things, it’s been a really pleasing run.”
It is a run that Healy will hope has at least one more big game in it when Australia take to the Hagley Oval field in the World Cup final on Sunday.