India v New Zealand, Women's World Cup semi-final April 6, 2005

Testing times lie ahead



Will India's women be celebrating against New Zealand after the semi-final at Potch? © Getty Images

New Zealand can almost reach out and touch the World Cup; just two more wins stand between them and the silver. But to get their hands on the trophy for another four years they must first apply some real elbow grease. A snarling Australia lie in wait in the final at Centurion, ready to claw away allcomers, but to get there New Zealand must first overhaul India in the semi-final at Potchefstroom on Thursday.

A passage through India will be no easy street. New Zealand might have edged the contest when the two sides met in the group stage, but the margin of victory was slender - 16 runs - and owed as much to another of India's renowned batting collapses as it did to Louise Milliken's five-wicket haul.

And the famously mercurial India bounced back with an easy win against West Indies and are now on the rise. India have never won the World Cup - they have been semi-finalists twice - but this could be their best chance yet: their tails are high, heads are up and the coin could fall perfectly for them. Not that the result will hinge on the toss: the winning side will have to earn their victory; for such evenly-balanced teams, you would need a spirit level to gauge which team is more favourably set.

Both teams won four and lost one of their group matches, and when the two sides met in the round robin, a close contest was inevitable. When Neetu David spun out five victims for India, New Zealand's Milliken responded with five of her own. Sara McGlashan was her side's only player to strike a fifty, Mithali Raj India's equivalent. One bonus point separated the sides after the group stage, and there's not much to choose between them ahead of their latest duel.

If the difference is bottle, and experience, then New Zealand will have the edge. But maybe, just maybe, India's batsmen can hold themselves together and produce the victory: after all, they kept their bottle to defeat the clear favourites Australia three times just before the tournament.

Either way, this semi-final promises much more of a tight contest than the first one, where Australia brushed aside England with ease. Turn on, tune in and watch out: both New Zealand and India are ready.

India (probable)
1 Anju Jain (wk), 2 Jaya Sharma, 3 Mithali Raj, 4 Rumeli Dhar, 5 Hemlata Kala, 6 Amita Sharma, 7 Jhulan Goswami, 8 Neetu David, 9 Deepa Marathe, 10 Nooshin Al Khader.

New Zealand (probable)
1 Maia Lewis (capt), 2 Aimee Mason, 3 Rebecca Rolls (wk), 4 Haidee Tiffin, 5 Sara McGlashan, 6 Maria Fahey, 7 Nicola Browne, 8 Helen Watson, 9 Rachel Pullar, 10 Anna Corbin, 11 Louise Milliken.