Spin-heavy India faces English challenge in semi-final of Women’s T20 World Cup

Chennai: The unbeaten Indian women’s team will face a heavy challenge when they meet a strong England in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup at Sydney tomorrow amidst rain-scare.

India women had won all their matches in Group A by defeating Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to qualify for the knockouts for the second consecutive time in the Women’s T20 World Cup. They lost to the same opponents, England in the semi-final of the previous edition and will now look to go one better and make their first-ever appearance in the final.

The Shafali Show

For India, the 16-year old Shafali Verma has lit up the tournament with her fearless batting at the top of the order. She has scored 161 runs in the tournament with a stunning strike rate of 161 and has been instrumental in helping India clinch key victories in the group stage. Her heroics with the bat in the tournament has also seen her rise to number one in the ICC women’s T20 rankings and all eyes will be on her during the important semi-final as well.

Apart from Shafali, all-rounder Deepti Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues, batting down the order, have chipped in with usual contributions. But mainstays, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and opener Smriti Mandhana, who missed a game due to illness, are yet to find form in the ongoing tournament.

Spin it to win it

However, India’s bowling is their major strength as they have relied upon the bowlers to win games. India has played with only one pacer in Shikha Pandey so far and has used leg-spinner, Poonam Yadav, left-arm spinners Radha Yadav, Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad and this spin attack paid rich dividends as they have successfully helped India defend totals in all their group matches. While Poonam Yadav with nine wickets is the leading the wicket-takers table, Shikha Pandey has the best economy rate (5.30) among Indian bowlers. India will once again rely upon the spin heavy bowling line up against England.

All-round England

England meanwhile enters the contest after finishing second in Group B. With 202 runs, Natalie Sciver is the top run-scorer of the tournament followed by England captain Heather Knight, second on the list with 193 runs. In bowling, left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone and pacer Anya Shribsole are joint second at the wicket-takers table with eight scalps. Ecclestone also has an impressive economy rate of under four runs, which is the best in the tournament.

An all-round England team, which also has the experience of playing many ICC knockouts before can pose a tough challenge to Harmanpreet’s team and can vie for a spot in the final. One can expect a nail-biting contest as two good teams face-off in the all-important clash.

Rain scare

With clouds hovering above Sydney, there is a possibility that the semi-final contest could be rained off. With no reserve day for the semi-final, if the match gets washed away, as per the forecast suggestions, India, having topped the group stage would qualify directly to the final.

Aaditya Anand M