After 11 days of scintillating cricket, the sixth edition and first stand-alone Women’s World T20 has its Top 4 – two matches featuring the reigning champions in limited-overs cricket, and their respective runners-up. The last three matches arrive with the weight of history behind them, thanks to the way the draws have fallen. Home team Windies, first-time tournament winner England, three-time champion Australia and our very own Women in Blue round off what was a fortnight of spectacular hardfought cricket. While the Windies beat England by 4 wickets in their last group match in Group A to end on the top of the points table, in Group B India defeated Australia by 48 runs to move to the top in a game that saw opener Smriti Mandhana awarded the “Player of the Match” for her knock of 83 in 55 balls (3 sixes and 9 fours).
The semi-finals will be re-enactments of two of the most famous finals in the history of women’s cricket, both of which have come in the last two years. In the first game the home team face pre-tournament favourites Australia. The Windies claimed their title by beating the same team in the final of the ICC Women’s World T20 2016. That game could lay claim to the most ground-breaking victory ever, as it was the first time that a team outside of the axis of Australia-England-New Zealand won a global title since 1973.
In the later game, table-toppers India take on England, a re-match of the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017: On that occasion the home team crowned a year of upheaval with a title in front of their fans, while India fell short of a first ICC Women’s World Cup title by an agonizing nine runs. The match was the pinnacle of a record-breaking tournament, one that could be said to have forever changed how the world viewed women’s cricket.
The second semi final is thus a grudge match where India will look to settle scores. They had begun that tournament with a stunning victory over the home team and three-time World Cup champions England. The team went on to win their next three matches as well, before suffering a small hiccup on their way to the final. The final, which was one for the ages for the neutral spectator, was all for India’s to lose with 38 runs needed off 43 balls with seven wickets in hand. England held their nerve, and Anya Shrubsole found a magnetic connection between the ball and the wickets. From a winning position, India collapsed and England won the final by just nine runs.
Friday, November 23rd @ Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua
Semi Final 1: 01.30am Australia vs Windies
Semi Final 2: 05.30am India vs England
The first semi-final is a repeat of last edition’s final and pre-tournament favourites Australia will surely go in with a lot of questions after the loss against India in their final group game has left many pondering their vulnerability. They remain a well-drilled unit though, who have set aside sentiment about seniors, juniors and rankings, to identify the best personnel for particular roles and run with it. Coming up against them is the team that pulled off an upset last time around. This time, there will be less surprise if the Windies do win to keep alive their title defence. Despite not firing on all cylinders all the time – especially with their top order – they have found rocket fuel to lift off in some areas to win themselves matches.
Australia will be the better-rested team, heading into this fixture with six days of no cricket and time to re-energise in Guyana, which has been far more pleasant over the course of the tournament than rain-hit St. Lucia, where West Indies played all their games.
West Indies have made a change only once in this tournament, and that was right at the start against Bangladesh, when they brought in Anisa Mohammed for Chinelle Henry. They don’t have injury worries and should field the same team as the England game.
Possible XI: Hayley Matthews, Deandra Dottin, Stafanie Taylor (C), Shemaine Campbelle, Natasha McLean, Britney Cooper, Kycia Knight (wk), Chinelle Henry, Afy Fletcher, Shakera Selman, Shamilia Connell
Alyssa Healy, who was Player of the Match in the first three matches and could have made a big difference at least to the start of Australia‘s chase against India if she hadn’t suffered a concussion was at the nets in the lead-up to the game and should walk back into the team. They could also bring Georgia Wareham back in place of Tayla Vlaeminck, who made her debut against India.
Possible XI: Beth Mooney, Alyssa Healy (wk), Meg Lanning (C), Ashleigh Gardner, Elyse Villani, Rachael Haynes, Ellyse Perry, Sophie Molineux, Delissa Kimmince, Georgia Wareham, Megan Schutt
– West Indies have beaten Australia only once in T20Is – in the final to win the last edition of the World T20
– Ellyse Perry is three away from 100 wickets in T20Is, and 52 away from 1,000 runs
India go in as the in-form team in the second semi final, having won all four of their group games including brushing New Zealand and Australia aside with surprising ease. Their vast and varied spin attack was made for the slow surfaces in Providence, Guyana, and in Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur in particular, they had the batting to transcend those conditions. The conditions in Antigua, however, might turn out to be different, in which case England who have a better balance of seam and spin options could come into their own. They have not clicked into anything approaching top gear yet in this tournament, particularly as a batting side, but the likes of Dani Wyatt, Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight possess the experience and big-match temperament to come good when it matters the most. Few games matter as much as this one.
England made a change to their spin attack in their last group game against West Indies, leaving out Linsey Smith and bringing in the offspinner Danielle Hazell. Hazell proved expensive, conceding 39 across four wicketless overs. Will England stick with the experience and variety that Hazell brings, or go back to three left-arm spinners in Smith, Kirstie Gordon and Sophie Ecclestone?
Possible XI: Danielle Wyatt, Tammy Beaumont, Amy Jones (wk), Natalie Sciver, Heather Knight (C), Lauren Winfield, Sophia Dunkley, Anya Shrubsole, Danielle Hazell/Linsey Smith, Sophie Ecclestone, Kirstie Gordon
Mithali Raj sat out India‘s last group match against Australia to nurse a knee injury. Her replacement, the allounder Anuja Patil, picked up three wickets with her offspin but did not get to bat despite India needing nine batsmen. This suggested their team management wanted to give their lower-order batsmen time in the middle before the semi-finals, and that they expected Raj to come back in Patil’s place for that match. Raj will most likely open the batting with Smriti Mandhana, pushing wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia down the order.
Possible XI: Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Veda Krishnamurthy, Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Arundhati Reddy, Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav
– England have a 10-3 head-to-head record against India in T20Is. India, however, won the most recent meeting, in Mumbai in March
– Among all bowlers with a minimum of 50 T20I wickets, Anya Shrubsole (13.04) and Poonam Yadav (13.20) have the second- and third-best averages
– India have four batsmen – Harmanpreet Kaur (167), Smriti Mandhana (144), Mithali Raj (107) and Jemimah Rodrigues (99) – among the top ten run-getters in this World T20
– England have three of the five most economical bowlers in the tournament, among those who have sent down at least 10 overs: Natalie Sciver (3.00), Shrubsole (3.18) and Katie Gordon (4.00)
Through its sudden flaring up at the back end of the group stage, the Women’s World T20 is now certifiably a blockbuster. The semi-finals could just take women’s cricket to that next ,level and we are all eagerly waiting and watching for all the good things to come!
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