Such is the gap between the top three teams in women’s cricket and the rest of the pack, that Australia, England and India have not needed to find top gear to reach the semi-finals. Even when they were tasked with performing their highest chase at a T20 World Cup, India beat Pakistan with an over and seven wickets to spare.
Australia cruised through their four matches in the group stage without ever looking as though they were straining. The closest they came was when South Africa put on a mildly aggressive opening stand, a threat that was soon neutralised. When a team can somehow fit seven free-scoring batters, four seamers and four spinners into an XI, it represents a lot of artillery for an opposition to break down.
That will be the task in front of India, who have largely been solid at this tournament without necessarily catching the eye. Even in Monday’s game against a semi-professional, part-time cricket team in Ireland, who dropped five catches, Harmanpreet Kaur’s side never fully stamped their authority on proceedings. In the end they won by just five runs when rain intervened.
Most teams seem to recognise that the only way to dismantle Australia is by taking the game to them, and India will be following the same approach. “They attack a lot,” wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh said. “So, whatever happens to them, even if the batsman is out, they don’t leave the attacking. Because they have batters from top to bottom. We also have a batter from top to bottom. So, we will play an attacking game.”
Whether India are capable of this remains to be seen. They struggled against England’s spinners over the weekend, getting bogged down in the middle overs and falling away in their chase. A much-improved showing will be required against Australia’s extensive spin line-up.
If there is a flicker of optimism, it comes from the fact that Australia have lost just one of their last 21 T20Is since April 2021, and it was to India. Even that, however, was in a Super Over, which shows just how infrequently such opportunities have come along for teams that faced up to Meg Lanning’s superstars recently.
When: Thursday, February 23 at 3pm local time (6:30 PM IST)
Where: Newlands, Cape Town
What to expect: Newlands has seen an awful lot of cricket this summer, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the surface is a little tired. That said, Richa Ghosh seemed optimistic about it in the pre-match press conference, saying that it “looked good” and that India could target 180 if their batting clicked. In truth a score of around 160 is likely to be competitive.
With Alyssa Healy fully fit for the semi-final, Australia has a full 15 to choose from again, which is a frightening prospect. This will likely leave a decision between Annabel Sutherland and Darcie Brown for the final slot in a side that has depth and balance in every department.
Probable XI: Alyssa Healy (wk), Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning (c), Ellyse Perry, Ash Gardner, Tahlia McGrath, Grace Harris, Georgia Wareham, Alana King, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland/Darcie Brown
India are hoping that Radha Yadav will recover from injury in time for the match, having missed Monday’s victory over Ireland. “Only the physio and the coach know (how she is feeling). We don’t know much about her,” Ghosh said on Wednesday.
Probable XI: Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Richa Ghosh (wk), Jemima Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Shikha Pandey, Devika Vaidya, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Thakur
Did you know
– India are the only team to have beaten Australia in a T20 World Cup since 2016. They have done so twice, winning group games at both the 2020 and 2018 editions.
– Ellyse Perry (40) and Megan Schutt (38) will have the opportunity to overtake England’s Anya Shrubsole (41) as the leading wicket-taker in T20 World Cup history.
What they said:
“I think they’ve shown that they’re not relying on one or two players. They’ve got some great depth as well. So, for us as a team, we’ve had to prepare for all their players to do well. And I think when you get to that point as a squad, you know you’re going to be in most games because T20 cricket, some things work out, some things don’t. Sometimes it’s not going to be your day but as long as someone steps up, then that’s the most important thing. They’ve really created that real strong group of players who have played a lot of cricket together now. And they’re able to deliver. So, we know they’re strong. And that sort of just makes the challenge even greater and something we look forward to.” – Australia captain Meg Lanning speaks about the increasing depth in the Indian team.
“We can beat Australia, it’s not that we can’t beat them – because we did it in the last series in India and we did it before as well. Yes, they are a strong team but we can beat them.” – Wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh explains the confidence running through her team, regardless of whether they are underdogs or not.