England captain Heather Knight feels tackling spinners, particularly the in-form Poonam Yadav, will be crucial to her side’s chances of upstaging an unbeaten India in the semifinal clash of the women’s T20 World Cup in Sydney on Thursday.
Yadav bamboozled host Australia in the opening match of the tournament and her wicket-taking exploits didn't stop there. She is leading the bowling charts with nine scalps from four matches. But the leg-spinner couldn't cast her spell the last time India met England in the tournament, conceding 29 from her four overs as Knight’s side romped to an eight-wicket victory to reach the final two years ago.
“We’ve practised for her a lot, I thought we played her outstandingly in the last T20 World Cup and that was due to the preparation we had,” Knight said on the eve of the match.
“We don’t have (assistant coach) Ali Maiden anymore, who bowled brilliant leg-spin, but we’ve got a few coaches who have bowled it brilliantly and we’ve been clear on how we’re going to do things against her,” she added.
Yadav has gone on to become India’s leading T20I wicket-taker and her ability to deceive on Australian pitches has forced Knight to take note ahead of her team's crunch match.
“She’s a massive threat for them and is an improved bowler since the last World Cup, so for us to be successful, we’re going to have to play her and all their spinners well. That’s going to be key in the game,” the England skipper said.
The Indian bowlers have been in phenomenal form, apart from Yadav, Shikha Pandey stands fifth with seven wickets. And the two have been complemented well by the likes of Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Deepti Sharma. After losing its opening game to South Africa, England has been under the pump to keep its semifinal hopes alive, which the skipper feels will go in her side's favour.
“It feels like we’ve built some momentum, we were gutted after the South Africa game and we’ve been playing knockout cricket since game two, that stands us in very good stead going into the knockout stages. We’ve started to get some players in real form and the players that aren’t, you feel like they’re just around the corner and can produce in a massive game such as the semi-final.”
With rain forecast for parts of the day, a degree of flexibility will likely be required against India, a change in approach that Knight is willing to take on.
“We’ll have a chat about what our strategy is. We’ll be quite clear about how we want to do things but we’ll have to be flexible. A lot of us have played in rain-reduced games before and it’s all about who switches on the fastest, who adapts very quickly and who ultimately performs in that short space.”
Tammy Beaumont opened the batting against West Indies but a potential reduction in overs on Thursday could lead to England loading its top-order with big hitters. Her side is no strangers to battling the elements with Knight keen to press home the importance of being switched on from ball one, with a place in the final at stake.
“It can be quite manic if it is a rain-reduced game, we’re making sure as a team that we’re quite calm with the way we want to do things. The good thing about our team is that we’ve got a lot of variety, a lot of different skillsets bowling and batting, so we feel like we can adapt to any situation we’re thrown in to.”
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