Australia peaking at the right time
Australia are unbeaten after five games of this tournament and it looks like they're peaking at just the right time for the final. They stuttered a little in the opening two group games against Pakistan and South Africa, losing early wickets, but nevertheless recovered to win both. They seemed to pull everything together when they played New Zealand, and Jodie Fields played a blinder as captain when they were forced to defend a low total against England. Even without star fast bowler Ellyse Perry, who it now turns out has aggravated an ankle injury, the Aussies' plans haven't been upset. Sri Lanka have acquitted themselves extremely well in this tournament, but after heavy defeats to West Indies, New Zealand and Australia, they need to work on putting results together more consistently. The fight for the other final berth will become clearer after West Indies and New Zealand have played each other. New Zealand brushed aside Sri Lanka with as much ease as Australia, and in duel internationals Sophie Devine (hockey) and Suzie Bates (basketball), they have two players with hundreds under their belts. However, they will be wary of the danger the West Indies pose if one or both of Deandra Dottin and Stafanie Taylor get going. The pitches at the Brabourne are also showing signs of becoming more receptive to spin, which could bring talented off spinner Anisa Mohammed (ranked sixth in the world) into play for the West Indies, as well as 17-year old legspinner Shaquana Quintyne.
*** We haven’t seen South Africa in any of the TV games, and they can't go any further in the tournament after losing their opening Super Six match. It is a shame for them that they haven’t had the opportunity to come to Mumbai; they have been kept in Cuttack because of security arrangements put in place in case it was Pakistan who qualified ahead of them. Apart from one team being stuck out on their own on the other side of the country, it would have been better for the tournament if all the teams were together in one city for the Super Sixes, as England and West Indies have both had to handle flights before and after games against South Africa, whereas New Zealand and Australia haven’t. Sri Lanka will also play there in a couple of days time. Facilities in Cuttack don’t seem to have enamoured players either, with reports of cockroaches and the odd rat in one of the hotels where players stayed during the group stage. During their brief visit, England’s Tammy Beaumont tweeted, “Just been to our hotel gym, which is also our team meeting room, and the treadmill is still being installed! #raincheck #faultytowers.”
*** Aussie quick Mitchell Starc appeared at the Brabourne Stadium to watch Australia's Super Six match against Sri Lanka. Having been rested from the remaining ODIs against the West Indies, he arrived in India early to get accustomed to conditions ahead of the upcoming men’s tour. As well as supporting the Australian women’s team, he had an ulterior motive to visit Mumbai because he is the boyfriend of wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy. Healy is the niece of former Australia 'keeper Ian, but hasn’t played a match in the tournament so far.
*** As a former county hockey player, I have wanted to watch a match in India for a long time, knowing just how popular the sport is over here. Unfortunately for the locals at the Mumbai Hockey Association Stadium, which lies in the shadow of the Wankhede Stadium, the Mumbai Magicians have only won one match in the five-team Hockey India League. The team is coached by Ric Charlesworth, a former state cricketer who was the coach of the Australian men’s hockey team at the London 2012 Olympics. The night I went to watch, the Magicians lost 1-0 to the Ranchi Rhinos, who had Great Britain midfielder Ashley Jackson in their side. I was there supporting Mumbai, who are led by former India captain and penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh, but I was also supporting Jackson, so I think I confused most people with my shouting.