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Australia look unstoppable, and they have worked very hard to get there

Batters' form a worry for England as they look to defend the title they won in 2017

Beth Mooney is hugged by a team-mate after sealing Australia's sensational chase, Australia Women vs India Women, 2nd ODI, Mackay, September 24, 2021

Beth Mooney has developed the excellent habit of playing match- and series-defining innings  •  Albert Perez/Getty Images


Can anyone stop them?
After the disappointment in the 2017 World Cup semi-final, Australia have taken their ODI game to a new level. Since that tournament, they have lost just two matches in the format and put together a world record of 26 consecutive wins. Their batting is formidable, with power right down the order, while their bowling is full of guile and variety, from the pace of Darcie Brown to the recently introduced legspin of Alana King. It is a mark of the depth they have built over the last four overs that even in the absence of leading spin pair Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham, along with pace bowler Tayla Vlaeminck, they remain the runaway favourites (whatever Meg Lanning may say). They can be beaten - India should have won the one-day series in September - but oppositions have to seize any small moment they are given because, more often than not, someone in the side will make the difference.
Meg Lanning (capt), Rachael Haynes, Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington | Travelling reserves: Georgia Redmayne, Heather Graham
Recent form
Their record winning streak was ended by India last year, but they whitewashed England in the recent Ashes having been under pressure in the opening match, which ended up deciding the series.
Player to watch
Beth Mooney is among the most versatile batters in the game. This season, she has both opened and batted in the middle-order, producing series-defining innings in each against India (with the century that won ESPNcricinfo's batting award) and England - the latter after having returned not long ago from a broken jaw. "I think it's just this quiet calmness and quiet confidence about the process that I go through when I'm batting…no game is ever really too far gone if you don't believe it is so," she told ESPNcricinfo recently.
What the captain said
"It's a new World Cup, everybody starts on zero points and needs to play well throughout the tournament. It's a great challenge for our group but, to be honest, we don't really talk about 2017 anymore. It obviously had a big impact on us but now it's a completely different group, and we're on a new journey together."
Meg Lanning


Defending champions England haven't had their dream build-up to the tournament. Soundly defeated in the multi-format Ashes series, the key will be ensuring that their batting line-up fires. Bowled out by Australia for 178, 129 and 163 in their three ODIs last month, they also struggled to find regular middle-order contributors in a 4-1 home-series victory over New Zealand in 2021. Veteran bowlers Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole - the star of the 2017 World Cup final - will have their workloads managed through the tournament but offer a spiritual boost as well as a proven threat with the ball. Meanwhile, fellow seamer Kate Cross is enjoying a resurgence and left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone is among the very best in the game. It's hard to see England turning the tables on Australia but if all the pieces fall into place, they have hope.
Heather Knight (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Amy Jones, Emma Lamb, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt | Travelling reserves: Lauren Bell, Mady Villiers
Recent form
They claim to have "parked" the recent Ashes result, in which they were swept aside 3-0 in the ODIs and where their only points were gleaned from two washed-out T20Is and the drawn Test. A resounding warm-up win over Bangladesh showed promise - with struggling opener Lauren Winfield-Hill finding some touch - and was followed by a six-wicket victory against South Africa in their second warm-up fixture. But stern trials await.
Player to watch
Nat Sciver has long been England's Ms Reliable - despite having battled for consistency and confidence early in her career - and now, with a wealth of experience, she is in her prime. Not yet 25 when she played a vital role in England's victorious 2017 campaign - scoring two centuries followed by a fifty in the final, and taking 3 for 3 against West Indies as the hosts topped the group stages - she exudes calm whether she has bat or ball in hand. The leading scorer for either side in the ODI series in Australia with 99 at 33.00, Sciver let loose in the warm-up against Bangladesh, scoring 108 and taking 2 for 12.
What the captain said
"I sometimes get goosebumps imagining what retaining the trophy would mean to the game back home, to all those young girls, and to each and every one of the players and staff who give everything they have for this team. But we've got a lot of hard work to do before we can start daydreaming about potential success."
Heather Knight