The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn: Australia and India are ready to contest the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final

 

 

History is in the making, with around 90,000 people expected to roll up to the iconic MCG this Sunday to watch the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final.

 

Could there be a record attendance at a women’s international sporting fixture? Currently the record stands at 90,185, after that many people attended the 1999 women’s soccer World Cup decider in California, featuring the USA and China.

 

Fittingly, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final will take place on International Women’s Day, while pop star Katy Perry takes centre stage for the off-field entertainment.

 

Fitting too, that competition host and defending champion Australia is contesting India, which has had an undefeated run to the decider but is yet to win a Women’s T20 World Cup title.

 

Having won the tournament in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018, the Australians will be hungry to win the title for the fifth time as this year is the first occasion that the competition has been played Down Under.

 

From an Australian viewpoint it sounds too good to be true: winning on home soil in front of what could be the biggest crowd at a worldwide women’s international fixture.

 

But to be perfectly honest, thinking along those lines would be an injustice and doing a great disservice to the visiting team.

 

No matter one’s allegiance, India has been a joy to watch and a breath of fresh air in this competition. It would be grossly unfair for anyone to suggest that India is ‘out to spoil Australia’s party’, or so to speak.

 

Sure, India had a free ride from the semi-finals to the decider, as the first semi-final was washed out before Australia fortuitously had the chance to contest South Africa when another washout would have ensured India contested the Proteas in the decider. (Now is not the time to debate whether there should be reserve days or contingency plans when it comes to rain-affected finals fixtures).

 

After starting the tournament with a shock 17-run win over Australia, the Indians surely captured everyone’s attention. Nobody could deny that this Sunday is a well-deserved opportunity for them, and that winning the title for the first time would be a just reward, should the Indians achieve this.

 

At the top of the order, Shafali Verma has been in sparkling form with an aggregate and strike rate of 161. Although she hasn’t made a half-century, her average of 40.25 is a model of consistency while she has also struck nine of the 71 sixes that have been hit in this tournament. Only 16 years of age, she should relish the big occasion rather than be overawed by it.

 

Check out a highlights package of Verma’s batting in this tournament: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ladmn896EqY

 

Also check out this interview to find out about Verma’s inspiring journey into cricket: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WLF42rqfR0

 

India’s batting has otherwise not been its strongest point, with Jemimah Rodrigues (85 runs) and Deepti Sharma (83) the only other Indians to tally more than 38 runs in the tournament. Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur have had a quiet time so far but, at the very least, their experience will be invaluable in the decider.

 

Australia’s openers meanwhile are in the top five runmakers, with Beth Mooney in third place with 181 runs and Alyssa Healy equal-fourth with Verma. But with Healy and Mooney having made 80s against strugglers Bangladesh, their overall form has not been as good as that of Verma.

 

Even without star all-rounder Ellyse Perry, Australia still has plenty of capable batters, with the middle and lower order containing the likes of captain Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes, Ash Gardner, Nicola Carey and Jess Jonassen.

 

Depending on the fall of wickets, Australia may need to think carefully about the batting order, as there has been a bizarre tendency to try to have a right- and left-hand combination more often than not.

 

Australia’s bowling attack also has plenty of depth, with its leading wicket-taker Megan Schutt accompanied by the likes of Carey, Jonassen and Gardner. Delissa Kimmince and Sophie Molineux only recently returned to the team, so it should be interesting to see who plays and who is omitted out of Kimmince, Molineux, Annabel Sutherland and Georgia Wareham.

 

Having had injury troubles and mental health issues, Molineux relished her recall for the semi-final and should have a chance to play in the decider. A Collingwood fan who has been among the crowd at a packed MCG in the AFL, Molineux would relish being on the field and taking part in front of a similar sized crowd.

 

Listen to Molineux as she discusses Australia’s journey to the World Cup decider: https://www.cricket.com.au/news/sophie-molineux-australia-india-t20-world-cup-finals-mcg-march-8-injuries-perry-vlaeminck/2020-03-06

 

One of many key factors will be how the Australians fare against India’s spinners, with the Australians surely needing to sort out and utilise a plan. Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav had them bamboozled last time as she captured 4-19 to cut through the middle order, with her wrong ‘un proving particularly lethal as well as deceptive.

 

Poonam has been the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with nine scalps at a cost of just 9.89, while left-arm tweakers Radha Yadav and Rajeshwari Gayakwad have five wickets each. Medium-pacer Shikha Pandey has also been a key figure with seven wickets in the tournament, including three against Australia in round one.

 

I am a little too reluctant to make a prediction. Perhaps my head and my heart are saying different things. An Australian win on home soil would be a huge achievement in front of a possible record crowd, not to mention on International Women’s Day. An Indian win meanwhile would also be a wonderful advertisement for the game.

 

One thing I am hopeful of is that cricket will be the real winner, and that whichever team wins will be a richly deserving victor while the runners-up can hold their heads high.

 

Good luck to both teams.

 

 

 

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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.

Comments

  1. Ian Hauser says

    Liam, a balanced and well-researched preview. There will be any number of possible match-winning contests within the overall contest. I think it will come down to two factors: firstly, how much the Australians learned from their first match against this opponent, particularly with regard to the Indian spinners, and how they counter that threat; and secondly, how the Indians hold up in the pressure-cooker of a final in front of a huge crowd at the MCG. No doubt they’ll have their fair share of supporters in the crowd. I’ll go for the Aussies in a thriller. So bring on a fine day, some good cricket and, regardless, women’s cricket will be the winner no matter who wins the game.

  2. Collingwood? MCG? Grand Final? Hardly good form for the big match.
    Never expected to be captivated by this tournament as I have been. Cricket highlight of the summer for me. Closely fought matches with good batting and spinners. “Quicks” uninspiring.
    Will be fascinating to see if the Aussie batters have sorted out Poonam Yadav. Doubt it. India.

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