|| AFP ||
The Women's T20 World Cup ended on Sunday with Australia claiming a sixth title thanks to a 19-run victory over South Africa in the final.
The first few days of the World Cup were played under a cloud. Not the Cape weather but, rather, the auction for the first Women's Premier League in India.
With women cricketers on the verge of their first seriously big payday, there was a fear the auction might distract from the action.
In the end all went smoothly with India's Smriti Mandhana leading the way on $410,000 as she was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore.
English all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt was sold to Mumbai Indians and Australian all-rounder Ash Gardner went to Gujarat Giants, with both franchises paying $387,000 for their stars.
It was not a great tournament for Pakistan who finished fourth in Group 2 but left-handed opener Muneeba Ali did produce one of the standout innings of the tournament.
The slight, bespectacled 25-year-old carved 14 fours in a masterly 102 from 68 balls in Pakistan's 70-run win over Ireland at Newlands.
In so doing, Muneeba, who had not previously scored even a half-century in 44 T20 internationals, became the first Pakistani woman to reach three figures in this brand of cricket.
"I realised only after the match that I had done something special," said the wicketkeeper-batter who appears to be fulfilling the talent she showed when picked as an 18-year-old in 2016.
That was as good as it got for Pakistan, however, who could only watch in awe as England hammered a record 213 for five to crush them by 114 runs and end their distant hopes of a place in the semis.
Sticky moment for Kaur
India captain Harmanpreet Kaur appeared to have everything under control. Chasing Australia's 172-4 in the semi-final, she had just struck two successive boundaries off Georgia Wareham to bring up her 50 and India needed a further 41 runs off 33 balls.
She then swept for what seemed a comfortable two -- except that as she grounded her bat, it caught in a divot and Alyssa Healy whipped off the bails to run Kaur out for 52. India fell five runs short.
Kaur, who had earlier become the first woman to pass 3,000 career runs in T20I cricket during the group win over Ireland, said she believed India would have won if she had stayed until the end.
"To lose from here, we weren't expecting this," she said wiping away the tears. "The way I got run out, can't be unluckier than that."
From a great height
England opening batter Danni Wyatt had a "terrifying" moment before the semi-final against South Africa when Cape Town's famed Table Mountain cable car lost power and left her hovering helplessly high above the ground.
"It was a very terrifying experience," she said. "I don't think I'll be going up that mountain again anytime soon."
Fortunately no lasting damage was done although she did admit: "Next time, I'll take the stairs".
England's descent on the field was more calamitous when they took on the hosts at Newlands, under the gaze of the mighty mountain and its cantankerous cable car.
In the semi-final, England conceded 164-4 but made a good start to their reply.
Wyatt clubbed 35 from 30 balls and shared an opening partnership of 53 in five overs with Sophie Dunkley. But four catches from Tazmin Brits eventually saw England fall an agonising six runs short.
'Wonder Woman' Brits
One of the criticisms of the women's game in the past has centred on the quality of the fielding. Admittedly there were a number of dropped catches at the World Cup but these were largely from the sides that do not have full professional set-ups.
Much of the catching, though, such as West Indies' Chinelle Henry's caught and bowled off Dunkley and the diving charge by Ireland's Orla Prendergast to remove India captain Kaur, was sensational.
Top honours, however, must go to South Africa's Tazmin Brits whose four catches against England in the semi-final included one from the top drawer.
The tall Brits, who had thrashed a rapid 68 in the South Africa innings, first had to back pedal to pluck down a miscue from Dunkley but two balls later she swooped one-handed and at full stretch to dismiss the dangerous Alice Capsey. It has been dubbed the 'Wonder Woman' catch.
She then used the hands that used to fling javelins a great distance to remove Wyatt and Nat Sciver-Brunt. A stunning display.