The Australian women’s cricket team scored their fifth Twenty20 World Cup title Sunday in an epic, history-making match.
Led by captain Meg Lanning, Australia crushed India by 85 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on International Women’s Day, in front of the biggest women’s cricket crowd — and the largest crowd for a women's sporting event — ever in Australia.
A crowd of over 86,000 watched the landmark event.
While still record-breaking, organisers had aimed to eclipse the record crowd for any women’s sporting event, which was set when 90,185 people came out to watch the women’s soccer World Cup final at the Rose Bowl Stadium in California in 1999.
The campaign to #FilltheMCG had run for years prior to Sunday's game, with the International Cricket Council urging Australians to play their part and help Australia beat the record. Despite falling just short, Australian cricketer Alyssa Healy said playing in front of tens of thousands of people on International Women’s Day was a “dream come true.”
"I don’t think anything’s ever going to top that,” she said, according to the Guardian. “For me, I never thought I would get the opportunity to do something as cool as what we did today and play in front of almost 90,000 people in a home World Cup final.”
"Cricket’s done some really amazing things in this country for female athletes and tonight was really just a celebration of that,” Healy added.
The match was opened and closed by performances from global superstar Katy Perry.
Donned in a dress decorated with the female gender symbol, Perry kicked off the proceedings by taking to a purple stage with dancing cricket bats and women holding “GRL PWR” signs to sing hits like “Roar” and “Firework.” After the match, the Australia women’s team danced with Perry on stage and ended the night with a phenomenal selfie.
The match comes at a time when inequality between men and women’s sport is at the forefront of public discourse.
In 2017, in line with a global push toward equality for female and male athletes, Cricket Australia announced a new pay deal that centred around revenue sharing and included gender-neutral contracts, policies and conditions. Under the deal, payments to women's players increased from $7.5 million AUD to $55.2 million AUD.
Then, in 2018, Cricket Australia joined other top Australian sporting federations like Basketball Australia and Football Federation Australia in pledging to support the Pathway to Pay Equality pact by the Male Champions of Change Institute (MCC).
The pact details a pathway to guarantee top female athletes are paid equally to their male equivalents, including equal prize money, equal exposure and equal opportunity.
"We want our women's elite teams to help shape the brand of cricket, drive the growth of the game and continue to deliver international success. On every measure they have done this as athletes and ambassadors,” Kevin Roberts, the CEO of Cricket Australia, said in the MCC report. “There is no question they deserve pay parity. We are continuing to put in place the systems and support to ensure we can deliver sustainable pay equality.”
Still, according to the report, Australian male athletes overall earn 27% more than their female counterparts.
The national pay gap average sits at 21.3%.