Almanac Cricket – The stage is set for ICC Women’s T20 World Cup action

 

The warm-up matches are done and dusted, and now it’s time for the real thing: the start of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.

 

This will be the seventh time the tournament takes place – 11 years after the first installment of the competition – but significantly the 2020 tournament will be the first time that Australia is the host.

 

With the MCG scheduled to host the decider on March 8, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup has generated enormous interest across the globe.

 

Here we take a look at how each of the 10 nations shapes up for this prestigious women’s cricket tournament, and what we can anticipate.

 

Australia:

 

Having won the competition in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018, Australia enters the 2020 tournament as a short-priced favourite. Anything other than winning the competition would be considered a huge failure for the host nation.

 

But with so many experienced players – including some who played in 2016 when the West Indies beat Australia in the decider – the Australians know that they will have to earn success and not expect it to be handed to them.

 

On paper and on form, the team appears dominant. Even with wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy going through a form slump, Australia has had many players showing their worth. With a top order containing Healy, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, captain Meg Lanning and vice-captain Rachael Haynes, Australia has the capacity to make a lot of runs.

 

All-rounders Jess Jonassen and Ash Gardner have also shown their worth with the bat – mainly at domestic level – but may not have regular opportunities in Australian colours, given the players above them in the batting order. Jonassen and Gardner nonetheless are likely to come in handy with their spin bowling, with Jonassen having been a prolific wicket-taker lately with her left-arm orthodox deliveries. Another left-arm orthodox spinner, Sophie Molineux, bowled superbly in a recent contest with India, but getting into the team may be her first issue considering the calibre of players in the squad. All-rounder Nicola Carey will be keen to be involved where possible, but it remains to be seen how often opportunities will arise.

 

Big things were expected of quick bowler Tayla Vlaeminck, but injury has unfortunately ruled her out of the tournament. Interestingly, her replacement was another spinner: Molly Strano. But with Perry, Carey, Megan Schutt and several spin options, Australia has the makings of a strong all-round team which will be hard to topple. Even if a few players have an off day, plenty of team-mates will be ready to compensate.

 

The only other host nation to win the competition was England, in the inaugural 2009 tournament. Expectations are high that Australia will become the second nation to achieve this feat.

 

Bangladesh:

 

After finishing ninth in the past three T20 women’s cricket World Cup tournaments, Bangladesh has taken strides in the right direction, albeit while other nations have improved significantly as well.

 

The lowly ranked Bangladeshis will hope to put their best foot forward and show that they are not easybeats. A narrow win over Pakistan in a warm-up match should give the Bangladeshis plenty of heart. Defending a total of 111, the Bangladeshis showed plenty of enthusiasm as they dismissed Pakistan for 106.

 

Murshida Khatun was the pick of the batters with 43, before Jahanara Alam was the best bowler with four wickets. Khadiza-Tul Kubra also bowled superbly as she snared 3-11, while Panna Ghosh was also economical.

 

All-rounder Rumana Ahmed and another spinner, teenager Nahida Akter, will be other players to watch. Bangladesh’s other main key player will be captain Salma Khatun, a regular wicket-taker who nabbed brilliantly economical figures of 1-4 from four overs in a World Cup qualifying match.

 

England:

 

After comfortably beating New Zealand by six wickets in a warm-up match, England came crashing back to earth with a thumping defeat against the unfancied Sri Lanka. This came after England had mixed fortunes against Australia and India in a tri-series on Australian soil, meaning England has had ample time to adjust to Australian conditions.

 

England nonetheless is expected to be a competition front-runner, with a number of experienced campaigners and match-winners.

 

Captain Heather Knight leads a strong batting unit containing the likes of Amy Jones, Danni Wyatt, Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Throw in the all-round talent of Natalie Sciver, who produces some unorthodox strokeplay and canny medium-pace bowling, and England has a well-balanced team.

 

Left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone is also expected to play a decisive role, having shown her ability to produce regular breakthroughs. Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole are also likely to be among the wicket-takers.

 

India:

 

The Indians could have made a big statement with a win over Australia in the recent tri-series final, but the touring side’s batting flopped when the team appeared on track for a comfortable run chase.

 

Opponents will be wary of Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, after she slammed a century in the previous World Cup. Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana will be among the other batters to watch, along with youngster Jemimah Rodrigues who has shown a fine temperament and shot selection.

 

Spinners Poonam Yadav and Deepti Sharma are sure to be dangerous with the ball, with leg-spinner Yadav having captured 85 wickets in 62 T20 internationals. As India held on for a thrilling two-run win over the West Indies in a warm-up match, Sharma conceded just 12 runs in her four overs while snaring one wicket. Yadav meanwhile captured 3-20 in her four overs, having held her nerve to take two wickets in the last three balls as the West Indies needed just four runs off the last three balls after scoring seven runs in the first half of the over.

 

New Zealand:

 

With several batters capable of firing on their day, the White Ferns would be disappointed not to at least make it to the play-offs.

 

A six-wicket loss to England was followed by an 81-run win over Thailand in the warm-up matches.

 

Suzie Bates and fill-in captain Sophie Devine loom as the danger players, as the White Ferns seek to cover for the absence of first-choice captain Amy Satterthwaite. Bates will be relied upon to score a lot of runs at the top of the order, while the South Africans are sure to remember her after she scored a lightning unbeaten century against the Proteas in 2018. Devine can also be explosive at the top of the order, as well as chip in with vital wickets as she delivers her medium-pacers. Katey Martin and Amelia Kerr meanwhile made a half-century each in the warm-up matches, while Leigh Kasperek and Holly Huddleston bagged a three-wicket haul each.

 

Pakistan:

 

Underachievers in a number of tournaments thus far, the Pakistanis will need to improve their consistency and all-round game if they hope to make much of an impression. Failing to chase 112 against Bangladesh in a warm-up match was not ideal preparation.

 

All-rounder Bismah Maroof is expected to skipper the team, having debuted for her country 14 years ago and become a reliable batter and useful leg-spinner as well as a decent leader. Experienced all-rounder Nida Dar will be another decisive contributor, while young left-arm spinner Sadia Iqbal could be one to watch after making an impression in her first couple of outings in late 2019. Aiman Anwar was the pick of the bowlers in the warm-up match against Bangladesh, with 2-12 from three overs. Javeria Khan was the standout batter with 41 as an opener, while the many disappointing scores throughout the middle order suggested fragility could be a concern in the batting department.

 

South Africa:

 

A formidable opponent when they click, the Proteas have several fine all-rounders but, like Pakistan, they will need to be more consistent if they are to push for a finals berth.

 

Dane van Niekerk has been appointed skipper following a year-long injury lay-off, and has become a veteran of the side after making her international debut more than a decade ago when she was just 15 years old.

 

Marizanne Kapp, Laura Wolvaardt and Chloe Tryon made an impression with quick scoring and hard hitting in a warm-up match against Sri Lanka, before Sune Luus claimed 4-20 with the ball. Ayabonga Khaka also impressed with the ball, taking 1-5 off three overs.

 

Prolific wicket-taker Shabnim Ismail’s pace bowling is sure to keep opposing batters on their toes, while Nadine de Klerk’s medium-pacers will also prove a handful for many opponents.

 

Sri Lanka:

 

Not expected to be among the front-runners, Sri Lanka lost its first warm-up match by 41 runs against South Africa, before rebounding with a shock 10-wicket thrashing of the highly fancied England. Captain Chamari Athapaththu was the superstar against England, claiming 3-21 before scoring 78 not out off 50 balls to help chase down the 123-run target in just 12.3 overs.

 

Athapaththu’s heroics nonetheless suggested that the Sri Lankans perhaps rely a bit too much on her, although some of her team-mates have also made an impression lately. Sashikala Siriwardene snared 4-22 against England, after Udeshika Prabodani nabbed 2-8 off four overs against the Proteas. Siriwardene looms as a threat with the bat, too.

 

Thailand:

 

A newcomer to the competition, Thailand earned its spot in the tournament following a series of victories against lesser fancied teams, but the World Cup rookies will expect to face a steep rise in class.

 

Captain Sornnarin Tippoch has done remarkably well with the ball, taking 39 wickets at an average below 10 with best figures of 4-4, although many of her opponents were not of World Cup standard. Nattaya Boochatham will be another player to watch, as this off-spinner often opens the bowling and bats in the top four.

 

West Indies:

 

A washout robbed the West Indians of the chance to contest the tournament hosts in a warm-up match, before the Stafanie Taylor-led team went down by two runs to India.

 

The West Indies suffered from injuries and patchy form since winning the 2016 crown, but a strong-looking team looks more than capable of pushing for a finals spot.

 

The experienced Taylor is sure to be a danger with bat and ball, while Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews could also be dangerous in either department. A decade ago, Dottin scored an undefeated 112 off 45 balls against South Africa, before she nabbed 5-5 in a 2018 T20 World Cup fixture. A useful off-spinner, Matthews produced some hard-hitting in the recent contest with India, as did Chinelle Henry. Lee-Ann Kirby made a fine 42 as an opener, suggesting she could lay a platform at the top of the order.

 

So let the games begin as Australia takes on India tonight in Sydney!

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Liam Hauser

A Queenslander through and through, Liam went out of his comfort zone as he had a thoroughly worthwhile time in Tumut and Gundagai from 2008 to 2016 before enjoying a year in Gunnedah. His strongest sporting interests are State of Origin, Sheffield Shield, Test cricket and the NRL. His sporting CV doesn’t have many highlights, although he once top-scored in a warehouse cricket match with 54 not out at number 10, and shared in an unbroken last wicket stand of 83 with the number 11 who scored an undefeated 52. Liam has written books including State of Origin 40 Years, A Century of Cricket Tests, A History of Test Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Rugby League, and The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League's Greatest Contests. Also a huge fan of Electric Light Orchestra.

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