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Women's World Cup predictions: New Zealand best placed to trip up favourites Australia?

Also, which record will be broken at the World Cup? And which young player is one to watch? ESPNcricinfo staff make their picks

Sophie Devine and Jess Kerr celebrate with wicket of Kycia Knight, New Zealand v West Indies, Women's World Cup, Mount Maunganui, March 4, 2022

Sophie Devine and Jess Kerr celebrate with wicket of Kycia Knight  •  Getty Images

Who are the dark horses to challenge Australia for the title?
Valkerie Baynes: New Zealand. The hosts are peaking at the right time with Amelia Kerr, Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates hitting top form with the bat. A nine-wicket warm-up win over the Aussies will boost the hosts' confidence no end. Annesha Ghosh: New Zealand, India, and South Africa. They are all on an equal footing heading into the tournament and are likely to push defending champions England for a knockouts spot. Andrew McGlashan: New Zealand. The hosts are coming off an impressive 4-1 series win over India and made quite the statement by chasing down 322 against Australia in their last warm-up. A top order of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Amelia Kerr and Amy Satterthwaite is very strong. Firdose Moonda: South Africa S Sudarshanan: New Zealand or South Africa. I think England lack the consistency and firepower, while I am not entirely convinced about India this time.
Who do you think will be player of the tournament?
Baynes: You could pick a swathe of Australian players to be fair, but Meg Lanning is just so tough - and reliable with the bat - that you'd back her to withstand the pressure an "overwhelming favourites" tag carries and to marshal her side to do the same. Ghosh: India's Deepti Sharma or New Zealand's Amelia Kerr. Both spin-bowling allrounders are critical to the chances of their sides and come into the tournament in form. McGlashan: Meg Lanning. This is a defining tournament for her team and her legacy. After the semi-final exit in 2017 she won't want another to slip away. Moonda: Laura Wolvaardt, South Africa's in-form opener. Sudarshanan: Beth Mooney has been quite a run-machine, so I would pick her, given Australia are the favourites. If I had to go left-field, I would go with Pakistan's young seamer Fatima Sana.
Which young star are you most looking forward to watching?
Baynes: India's Richa Ghosh. This 18-year-old, who only made her ODI debut in September against Australia, provides plenty of scoring power in the middle order. A run-a-ball 65 and rapid-fire 52 off 29 - India's fastest fifty in the format - against hosts New Zealand last month showed she's in fine touch. Ghosh: Fatima Sana, the 2021 ICC Women's Emerging Cricketer of the Year. In pace-friendly New Zealand conditions, Sana, 20, could test the top orders of all teams. McGlashan: She has been around for a considerable time, but Amelia Kerr is still only 21 and looks to have taken her batting to another level this year. Moonda: Fatima Sana Sudarshanan: Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh and Fatima Sana
Which group-stage match is a must watch?
Baynes: England vs India on March 16 - a replay of the 2017 final. The sides were quite well matched as recently as the 2021 English summer when the hosts won their series 2-1 with India squeezing the contest after a heavy defeat in the first match. Ghosh: New Zealand vs Australia on March 13. New Zealand bossed the most successful ODI side in their warm-up on March 1, with captain Sophie Devine leading their successful 322 chase with a fiery 161 not out. Australia are not invincible, and New Zealand look the most likely side to expose their frailties. McGlashan: Australia-England early in the competition (March 5). The first match for both sides. It was all Australia during the recent ODIs in the Ashes but can the defending champions make an early mark? Moonda: South Africa-West Indies on March 24 (they've had two Super Overs in their history!) Sudarshanan: India vs Pakistan, on March 6, could be interesting, given they hardly play each other.
Which record do you think may be broken at this World Cup?
Baynes: Highest successful women's ODI chase. Australia posted 289 for 6 to defeat New Zealand in Sydney back in 2012, and the White Ferns moved to second on the list with their 280 for 7 to beat India in Queenstown a fortnight ago, while Auckland and Mount Maunganui also feature in the top-five. Ghosh: Five of the top 10 highest successful chases in women's ODIs have been recorded during the past 12 months, so chances are the record will be broken more than once at this edition. McGlashan: The record for sixes was smashed in 2017 with 111 and it could well go again this time. Moonda: Best economy rate in an ODI. Sudarshanan: Given the stage women's ODIs are at, I think the record of the highest successful chase definitely will be broken.