In-form England gear up for defending champions' mojo
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Start time 1430 local (09:00 GMT)
It's a clash between two powerhouses of the women's game, one that elicits excitement, passion and the urge to win at any cost. Not that some of the other sides don't, but England v Australia anywhere in the world, be it in men's or women's cricket, is a contest of nerves, frayed tempers at times, anticipation, and plenty of verbal volleys.
That Meg Lanning and her Southern Stars are within two wins from adding their fourth World T20 title into their burgeoning trophy cabinet should fire them up. Equally keyed up on the other side will be Charlotte Edwards, England's talisman, best batsman, reputed leader, legend of the game, who would want to make, perhaps, her last World T20 appearance a memorable one. But that won't be a walk in the park by any means.
England go in to the clash with an all-win record in the group stages. The misfiring batting unit somewhat found remedial measures in demoralising Pakistan; Edwards leading the way with an exuberant half-century. In comparison, Australia's campaign has been a topsy-turvy one, with the top order continuing to come under scrutiny - their meltdown against superior attacks in New Zealand and South Africa - is something England would have done well to note.
Both England and Australia know what it takes to win the title, but the similarity ends there. Since winning the inaugural edition in 2009, England have somehow slipped under pressure - losing to Australia on three occasions in a knockout clash at a world event. Australia, who won two titles under Jodie Fields in 2010 and 2012, seemed to have carried forward the mantle even in the absence of some stalwarts like Lisa Sthalekar. The transition has been seamless as the side lifted the trophy under Lanning in 2012 and 2014.
While England have played their matches in Banglore, Dharamsala and Chennai, that Australia have been based in Delhi for more than week now could give them an edge come Wednesday.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia : WWLWW
In the spotlight
There's been an air of intrigue around England's Sarah Taylor ever since she became the first woman to play men's grade cricket in Australia last year. Taylor evokes awe when she bashes the ball with an abandon rarely seen in the women's game. With 288 runs in five innings coming into the Women's World T20, she was a part of the opposition's plan in every game. But scores of 9, 16, 3 and 0 accompanied by the manner of her dismissals against spin particularly may be playing on her mind. There's no bigger opportunity to set things straight than against Australia in her fifth straight World T20 campaign.
Alyssa Healy has been the No. 1 wicketkeeper across formats since Jodie Fields retired in 2013. While her modest numbers aren't a true reflection of her potential, it's time she translated that into a performance of note at the business end of the tournament. While her glovework has been impressive, scores of 5, 2, 12 and 6 point to her being a weak link in an otherwise robust top order.
Heather Knight's stomach bug briefly caused concerns in the England camp when she missed the game against Pakistan in Chennai, but Edwards confirmed she has sufficiently recovered since and is likely to take the field barring a relapse. That means she is likely to slot back in at the expense of Georgia Elwiss, who made a golden duck in her only game in the competition. There could also be a temptation to persist with Laura Marsh, who impressed in her only outing, with three wickets. Her batting could come in handy as well.
England (probable) 1. Charlotte Edwards 2.Tammy Beaumont 3. Sarah Taylor 4. Heather Knight 5. Natalie Sciver 6. Laura Marsh 7. Lydia Greenway 8. Danny Wyatt 9. Katherine Brunt 10. Jenny Gunn 11. Anya Shrubsole
Depending on how the surface plays - Kotla is known to aid slower bowlers traditionally even though it has played far better than some of the other tracks in the country - Australia could ponder over the inclusion of Erin Osborne, the offspinner, in place of Lauren Cheatle, the left-arm seamer.
Australia (probable) 1 Elyse Villani. 2 Alyssa Healy 3 Meg Lanning 4 Ellyse Perry 5 Alex Blackwell 6 Jess Jonassen 7 Beth Mooney 8 Erin Osborne/Lauren Cheatle 9 Megan Schutt 10 Rene Farrell 11 Kristen Beams
Pitch and conditions
Both captains expected the surface to play well, and there was ample proof of it when Australia played Sri Lanka last week. While spinners did make an impact, it was more due to their skill more than anything else. The fact that a men's semi-final would follow later would mean the need to produce a surface that plays well throughout.
Stats and trivia
- Australia and England have clashed only once before at the World T20 semi-final, in 2009. England had the better of the exchanges then, and went on to win the tournament
- With 572 runs in 24 matches, Charlotte Edwards is has the leading run aggregate in T20Is between both sides. Meg Lanning comes second with 520 runs in 19 matches.
"Any England-Australia game, whether it's the Ashes or at a World Cup is one of the biggest games you play in. We've had experience of last summer. We will take confidence from winning T20s 2-1. But you've got to win; you can't predict the semi-finals like you could ten years ago." England captain Charlotte Edwards expects a tough fight
"There's definitely a fair bit if banter. We love playing against England because we know it's going to be a tough contest. With the WBBL this year, we played alongside few of the girls as well so that adds another dimension I guess. Once we walk over that white line where the battle really starts, we're looking forward to taking them on and we'll be on the front foot, that's for sure." Australia captain Meg Lanning on the famous rivalry
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo