Sydney: The Indian team, who have been undefeated so far in the ongoing Women’s T20 World Cup, will face a daunting task against England when they take on 2009 champions in the first semi-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.
England have been India’s biggest nemesis in T20 World Cups. The Women in Blue lost the 2009 group stage match to England by 10 wickets; did not get a chance to play in 2010 due to different pools but India lost that semi-final against Aussies; lost 2012 group stage against England by 9 wickets; 2014 group stage match by 5 wickets; and the last edition of 2018 was even more hurting for Team India as England defeated them by 8 wickets in the semi-final stage.
However, in the recent tri-series before the World Cup, India had managed to defeat England and thus would want to take confidence from that win in Thursday’s game.
With a win over favourites Australia by 17 runs, Bangladesh by 18 runs, New Zealand by just 3 runs and wrapping up the group stage with a 7-wicket victory against Sri Lanka, India will enter the semifinals with sky-high confidence.
Batting for India has been outstanding with Shafali Verma’s bettering scores and posture in each game. With 161 runs in four matches and a batting average of 40.25, the 16-year-old is on the third position in the list of leading run-getters in the competition followed by England’s Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight.
Shafali is also the youngest player to get back Player of the Match awards having maximum impact on the entire performance of the team ably supported by Deepti Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues who generously rotate strikes.
Surprisingly, the middle order has stepped up as Veda Krishnamurthy has found her form back. Shikha Pandey and Radha Yadav’s performance in their match against the White Ferns scoring 28 off 23 in partnership led India to a respectable 133.
The overall strength lies in batting but, if India have to go past England, the first 6 overs will play a crucial role as it will set the tone for the bugle of the finale. The seniors — led by Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana — will have to perform to stay at the crease for long if India are to make it to their maiden final appearance in the T20 World Cup.
Poonam Yadav, under the tutelage of spin wizard Narendra Hirwani, has been shaping up with enough deceptiveness and consistent googlies. Poonam is currently poised as the most valuable player of the tournament with most wickets in the group stage — 9.
For England, Natalie has ravaged opponents by scoring 202 runs in total and a batting average of 67.33 in four group-stage matches. With scores of 59 off 52 against Thailand, 36 off 29 against Pakistan, 57 off 56 against West Indies and 50 off 41 against South Africa, Natalie is in the prime of her form and will pose a great threat to the Indian bowlers.
The forecast for Thursday at the SCG looks troubled with rain delays and a possible wash off with 80 per cent rain being reported currently on the day of semi-finals. In such conditions and with a possibility of wash off, India and South Africa might proceed to the final playoff at the MCG Ground for which over 50,000 tickets are already sold out.
(The author is a women’s cricket expert & historian