Firm title contender after a sensational unbeaten run in the group stages, India will have to ensure a solid all-round performance to get the better of formidable England in the semifinals of the ICC women’s T20 World Cup in Sydney on Thursday.
India has been the best side so far and it would be seeking its maiden final appearance in the showpiece event’s history with a win over the England side. In the seven earlier editions, India has never reached the final but this time, it has performed well under pressure against the likes of Australia and New Zealand.
It began its campaign with a win over defending champion Australia and since then has gathered strength with every match, beating Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka to top group A with eight points from four matches. The Indians are in red-hot form, but history favours the English as they have won all the five matches played between the two sides in the tournament.
The last time, the two teams met in a T20 World Cup, England won by eight wickets in the semifinals in West Indies. Before that, India lost in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2016 editions -- all during group-stage encounters.
“After losing the last semifinal, as a team we realised we have to work as a unit, and right now you will see that our team is working as a unit and we are not reliant on just one or two players,” India captain Harmanpreet Kaur said, referring to the semifinals loss in 2018.
Seven players in the current Indian team were part of that semifinal and they would be looking to turn the tables on England this time around. The Indians will also take confidence from the win against England in the tri-series in Australia ahead of the World Cup.
Most Indian players, especially the bowlers, are in top form. Teenage sensation Shafali Verma being the leading batter has scored 161 runs in four innings, which has seen her rise to the top spot in the ICC women’s T20I rankings. With a batting average of 40.25, the 16-year-old is on the third spot among leading run-getters in the competition, followed by England’s Natalie Sciver (202) and Heather Knight (193).
One-down Jemimah Rodrigues is also in good touch and has made useful contributions though she has not scored big so far, with 34 being her highest. The middle-order has also stepped up whenever needed with Veda Krishnamurthy, Shikha Pandey and Radha Yadav making their presence felt across different matches.
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The two most experienced players in skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and opener Smriti Mandhana have, however, not been living up to the expectations and the semifinals could be their time to make the big comeback. In the bowling department, leg-spinner Poonam Yadav is on top of the tournament chart with nine wickets from four matches. She has been ably supported by Shikha Pandey (7 from 4 matches).
For England, which has qualified for the semifinals after finishing second in group B with three wins and one loss, batting has been its strength. Natalie has plundered 202 runs with an average of 67.33, including three fifties, and India will have to find a way to stop her in her tracks. In the bowling department too, England has the likes of left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone (8 wickets) and pacer Anya Shrubsole (7 wickets) who are at the second and third spots in the tournament's bowling chart.
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