After England secured their place in the final of the 2017 ICC Women's World Cup, India and defending champions Australia will face each other in the second semi-final on Thursday to book a spot against the hosts in the final.
India come into the semi-final on the back of a handsome 186-run victory in their do-or-die match against New Zealand. India will be looking to reach only their second ever final but will have to go past six-time winners and defending champions Australia.
Psychologically, Australia have the upper hand over India as they easily chased down India's target of 227 runs in 45 overs with eight wickets to spare when the teams met in the league stage.
However, India have already caused an upset in the tournament when they beat hosts England in the opening fixture and will be looking to do the same against Australia at Derby on Thursday.
With both sides having talented players to call upon, here are some of the impact players to watch out for.
India’s leading run-scorer in the tournament, Mithali has shouldered the responsibility of getting runs in the crucial middle overs efficiently. However, Australia is the only country against which Mithali's batting average (34.46) is less than 40 in women's ODIs. In their previous encounter against Australia in the league stage, Mithali scored 69 runs but it wasn’t enough as Australia notched an eight-wicket victory. The highest run-getter in women’s ODIs, Mithali is one of the most experienced batswoman in the tournament and the semi-final will be the perfect platform for her to cement her claim as one of the greatest cricketers in history.
Punam has been one of India’s most consistent performers in the tournament. Punam, fellow opener Smriti Mandhana and Mithali have scored the bulk of India’s runs in the tournament. While all eyes have been on the aggressive Smriti and the calm Mithali, Punam has been working behind the shadows and piling runs for India. She can take inspiration from her century against Australia in the league stage and will be looking to pick up from where she left off last time.
Ekta Bisht, Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav
The trio of Ekta Bisht, Deepti Sharma and Poonam Yadav have taken 26 of the 49 wickets that the Indian bowling attack has claimed. The friendly conditions have helped spinners in the tournament with them being top three wicket-getters in this edition of the Women’s World Cup. Apart from picking up wickets at crucial junctures, the trio have also been economical, with none of them conceding more than five runs per over. The Indian spin trio will be up against a formidable Australian batting line-up led by Meg Lanning and Elyse Perry, two of Australia’s best batswomen and will have to be on top of their game to shackle Australia’s batting might.
After taking over from Jodie Fields as captain of Australia, Lanning won the Ashes in 2015 and will be aiming to lead Australia to a contest against arch rivals England in the finals. The top-ranked batswoman in the world, Lanning has been in superb form in the World Cup. Even though she has only played five matches in the tournament, she has scored 328 runs at a stunning average of 109.33. Coming in at No 3 like her Indian counterpart, the Australian captain has taken on the mantle of batting through the middle overs before unleashing the aggressive side of her game in the final overs.
The world’s best all-rounder, Perry has been one of Australia’s most influential players for the past few years. Originally getting into the team as a fast bowler, she impressed with the bat and subsequently got promoted to No 4 in the batting line-up, where she has been involved in a number of crucial partnerships with skipper Lanning. She is the second highest run-scorer in the tournament with 366 runs and has also scored five half-centuries, the most in this tournament while also taking nine wickets.
Kristen Beams and Jess Jonassen
Australia’s answer to India’s spin trio of Bisht, Sharma and Yadav, Beams and Jonassen have picked up 18 wickets between them. The duo have been miserly with the ball, with both of them boasting economy rates of under four. Australia will be relying on Beams and Jonassen to restrict the Indian batswomen during the middle overs while picking up wickets at regular intervals.