Being in the final of a major tournament is no alien territory for Meg Lanning, who’s already featured in five World Cup finals across formats, and the Australia skipper believes that the key for her side come Sunday will be to stay calm and absorb the pressure thrown by the opponent, just like they did in the semi-final.
Five-time champions Australia were largely untroubled in the group stages, but Lanning’s side found themselves in serious troubles in certain phases in the semi-final.
At one point, the defending champions were staring down the barrel with India needing 41 off 33 balls with two set batters in the middle. However, the reigning champions did not panic, held their nerve and eventually secured a five-run victory to reach their seventh consecutive T20WC final.
On the eve of the final, Lanning, in the pre-match press conference, spoke about the importance of not getting flustered by shifts in momentum.
“I think having been put in pressure situations before helps,” Lanning said ahead of the final.
“I think you learn a lot in those times and we learn a lot from the semi-final where we were under the pump a fair bit and I guess it just reiterated to us that you have to stay in the game and you have to be ready to take your chances when you get them and we were able to do that the other day.
“We need to make sure we're ready to do that again tomorrow but there's going to be moments when South Africa will be on top, they'll have the momentum, the crowd will be on their side and we accept that and we understand that that's going to happen but when we get the chance to really put our footprint on the game and play the way that we want, we have to make sure that we do that because that's how we're going to win the game - so I think just knowing that you're going to be under the pump at certain points, that's fine, that's the nature of T20 cricket, other teams are going to come hard and absorbing that pressure and then when you get the opportunity, you really push back hard.”
When asked if there’ll be more pressure on Australia due to the masses largely ‘expecting’ them to emerge champions owing to their dominance in the sport, Lanning played it down and stressed that there’ll inevitably be ‘pressure on everyone’ due to the enormity of the occasion.
“Oh, I think there's pressure on everyone, it's a World Cup final, there's no guarantees and it's about what happens on the day,” Lanning said.
“South Africa obviously are playing really good cricket, you know once you get to a World Cup final you've obviously beaten some good teams and you're playing well so that's what we're expecting tomorrow, we're expecting them to come out and play to their full strength and they're riding a wave of emotion as well so we're certainly prepared for that but yeah heading into a World Cup final there's pressure on everybody and you know it's about executing as best you can at the time.”
The last time Australia played a T20WC final they had over 70,000 people cheering for them at the MCG, but the tables will be turned on Sunday; those at Newlands will be cheering their hearts out for South Africa.
Lanning, who is no stranger to playing in front of partisan crowds, asserted that her side will ‘come prepared’ for the crowd.
“Yeah, I think so, it's something we I guess have experienced a little bit before and from all reports the game last night had an incredible atmosphere and the crowd was certainly cheering for the home team as you'd expect here, so we're coming here prepared for that tomorrow.
“We know we're probably not going to be the team that everyone's cheering for but that's fine, you know it's going to be an incredible atmosphere and an incredible game at an amazing venue - so we're pumped, we can't wait to get out here and play and no doubt it's going to be a great contest,” the Aussie skipper said.
Australia have already got the better of South Africa once in this World Cup, in the group stages, but they of all teams know that group results matter little heading into a final. After all, three years ago, they obliterated Harmanpreet Kaur’s India in the final after losing to them in the curtain-raiser.
The Aussie skipper stated that she expects a tight contest on Sunday and asserted that she expects the final to be a ‘pretty special contest’.
“Yeah absolutely, we've played some really close games between each other over the years, we've come out on top but we've been pushed a long way and as I said we're expecting a really tight contest tomorrow,” Lanning said of her side’s rivalry with South Africa.
“And we know them really well as they do us you know we've played alongside some of their players too in various competitions, so there's nowhere to hide, everybody knows sort of what's coming up and it's just about holding your nerve under the pressure of a World Cup final and whoever does that the best will get the result but yeah, I can't wait to get out there it's going to be a pretty special contest and it's certainly going to be a pretty hardly fought game.”