Australia arrived in New Zealand this year as World Cup favorites, but given how things went the last time, you could forgive them for putting less than zero stock in that status.
A semi-final exit in 2017 was seen as a failure by the defending 50-over champions, who were widely regarded as the best team in the world.
The defeat to eventual winners in the group stage England was not impossible to believe, but a 36-run defeat to India in a rain-affected semi-final seemed out of nowhere.
Since then, Australia’s women’s team has been on a mission to reclaim their ODI world championship, which they finally did with a 71-run victory over England in this year’s final.
But they had to wait for it.
The Cricket World Cup in 2022 was supposed to be held in 2021. The final was scheduled to take place just one day before the one-year anniversary of their famous Twenty20 world title, but COVID intervened.
This year’s decider arrived 392 days late, and just a little less than five years after their previous 50-over World Cup game ended in such a flop.
Rachael Haynes, Australia’s vice-captain, called the 2017 tournament a “crucible moment.”
“It didn’t exactly go as planned,” she admitted after her team’s resounding victory over an old foe on Sunday.
As satisfying as the T20 victory in 2020 ways, the story would have been incomplete if the world titles had not been united.
“It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time, everyone’s been talking about it for a long time, so to finally get over the line was pretty cool,” 2022 finalist and tournament MVP Alyssa Healy said.
“Everyone has worked extremely hard for this. It’s been a long five-year wait to come here and try to win a title that everyone said we deserved.”
From 2017 to now, Healy has gone from the middle order to be one of the world’s best openers, capped by a record-breaking 170 off 138 balls to deliver the women’s side their seventh ODI World Cup victory.
But there were also intangible changes.
Ellyse Perry, who only played this year’s final after passing a late fitness test and was unable to bowl, said the team’s attitude had shifted “to really take the game on all the time.”
“Something that has really stood out to me during this tournament is the way the group has dealt with pressure,” she said.
“It didn’t all go our way. We’ve been tested, but we’ve always come out on top.
“I think that’s a big change from last year; just that mentality and poise under pressure, especially from our leaders, but across the board.”
T20 cricket will be featured at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in July and August, followed by a rescheduled World Cup, with the T20 tournament moving from late 2022 to February next year.