CHRISTCHURCH: Australia, led by a sublime 170 from Alyssa Healy, rewrote the record books to beat a valiant England by 71 runs in the Women's World Cup final in Christchurch on Sunday. Australia amassed a daunting 356 for five but the defending champions England, faced with a record target, kept up the run rate but ran out of wickets to be dismissed for 285 in the 44th over, with Nat Sciver unbeaten on 148.

"Unbelievable," player-of-the-match and player-of-the-tournament Healy said of her innings - the highest in any women's or men's World Cup. "Never in my wildest dreams I ever thought to do anything like that. "Our team sets out to win events like this and you want to contribute to that, don't you? I just really enjoyed being out there."

The victory continued Australia's dominance of the 50-over format with their seventh title from 12 World Cups and extended their one-day international record to 38 wins from 39 matches over the past four years. "To come out and perform so well through the whole tournament, to be honest, is pretty amazing and I think we deserved the victory today," Australian captain Meg Lanning said, paying special tribute to Healy.

"It was incredible. To do it in a World Cup final. She's just able to come out and play so well and some of those shots she was playing were ridiculous." England captain Heather Knight called Healy's innings "one of the best" and said it was unfortunate her team could not build a big partnership around Sciver. "But I guess the runs on the board meant we had to take a few risks," she said.

Healy on the rampage

Against England, Australia lost the toss but nothing else. Knight put Australia into bat, noting her side had bowled "outstandingly well" at Hagley Oval, but Australian openers Perry and Rachael Haynes were not listening. They showed patience, scoring a sedate 26 off the first eight overs before Healy went on the rampage, paying the bowlers no respect as she pounded all points of the boundary with 26 fours.

Her 170, off just 138 deliveries, was the highest score in a women's or men's World Cup final, the highest score in this tournament and contributed to her tournament record of 509 runs, eclipsing the 497, set by Haynes earlier in the same innings. The Healy and Haynes 160-run opening stand was a record partnership for any wicket in a World Cup final.

England could have claimed both wickets in the 21st over, with Australia still in the 90s, when Healy and Haynes were dropped off the bowling of Kate Cross. It took Australia 22.2 overs to bring up their first 100, 13 more overs for the second hundred but just nine overs for the third, helped by England returning to the poor fielding which had plagued their start to the World Cup when they lost their first three games.

When Haynes went for 68, Beth Mooney joined Healy in a 156-run partnership before Healy's extraordinary innings ended in the 46th over, when she missed an Anya Shrubsole delivery outside off stump and was stumped. Mooney quickly followed for 62 as Australia lost four wickets in a push for runs over the last four overs, with Elysse Perry finishing not out 17 after coming in at number seven on her return from injury.

Shrubsole was the one England bowler to perform with credit with three for 46 off her 10 overs - the figures inflated by the final over which cost 15 runs. England made a determined effort to stay within reach of the required run rate, but were hampered by wickets falling at regular intervals. Sciver's 148 was the second-highest score in a Women's World Cup final, but the next best for England was 27 by opener Tammy Beaumont. For Australia, Jess Jonassen took three for 57 and Alana King finished with three for 64. - AFP