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Australia beats Pakistan by 7 wickets at Women’s World Cup

Six-time world champion Australia swept aside Pakistan by seven wickets Tuesday to remain unbeaten after two group-stage matches at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup.

Pakistan scored 190-6 after being sent in to bat at Mount Maunganui and Australia surpassed that total in just under 35 overs.

Australia’s run chase was set up by opener Alyssa Healy who made 72 from 79 balls.

Ellyse Perry (26 not out) and Beth Mooney (23 not out) were at the crease when the winning runs were struck.

For Pakistan, captain Bismah Maroof finished 78 not out, falling one run short of the highest score by a Pakistan player in a Women’s World Cup match. Maroof shared a 99-run partnership with Aliya Riaz, a fifth-wicket record for Pakistan in one-day internationals. Riaz made 57.

That simple synopsis of the match at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui doesn’t come close to encapsulating its significance on International Women’s Day.

Australia has competed in every women’s World Cup since the first in 1973, winning in 1978, ‘82, ’88, ‘97, 2005 and ’13. It has produced some of the greatest players in the history of women’s cricket and entered the tournament as the favorite to win again.

Cricket Australia recently announced measures to boost the base salary for women players to $65,000 Australian dollars ($48,000) and women’s cricket moves steadily toward pay parity with the men’s game.

There was no formal women’s cricket in Pakistan until the 1990s when it began with the most tentative of footholds at the initiative of sisters Shaiza and Sharmeen Khan.

As late as 1997 the Pakistan women’s team was denied permission to play on religious grounds.

But he Pakistan Cricket Board established a so-called Women’s Wing in 2005 and the women’s national team has since participated in four World Cups. With limited resources it had won only two World Cup matches before the current tournament. Most of the current Pakistan team are at least semi professional and the team’s coaches and support staff are full-time.

But the greatest measure of the progress women’s cricket has made on this IWD is that 29-year-old Mahroof played the innings while her daughter Fatimah, born in August, was in the pavilion. Maroof returned to international cricket six months after her daughter’s birth.

The Pakistan Cricket Board is sharing costs to allow Maroof “to travel with a support person of her choice to assist in caring for her infant child.”

Maroof’s mother cared for Fatimah while her mother was at the crease and in the field.

“Of course in this comeback it was very important for me to perform and it’s very special as my mother and daughter are here so I wanted to make it count,” Maroof said.

Pakistan played India in its opening match on the weekend and India’s star batter Smriti Mandhana described Maroof’s return to international cricket “inspiring.”

“Coming back post pregnancy in six months and playing international cricket is so inspiring,” Mandhana said on Instagram. “Mahroof is setting an example for sportswomen across the globe.”