Unless there was a major upset, the semi-final line-up was always going to be a pool of four teams from a possible set of five. As in 2018, New Zealand, pitted in the “Group of Death” with Australia and India, lost to both and were knocked out at the league stage. England and South Africa predictably made it from Group B, though not quite in the way pundits had expected them to. Ahead of the business end of the tournament, here are some major takeaways from the league stage.
The women need more matches
This was Thailand’s first appearance at the tournament, so there may be some justification for their lack of exposure against the major nations. That does not apply to Bangladesh, who had never played a single T20I on Australian soil, or against Australia anywhere in the world, before this T20 World Cup. In fact, of their 75 ODIs, only 33 have been outside Asia, with 19 of those matches played in the Netherlands, Scotland, and Ireland.
Jahanara Alam has called for Bangladesh to get more opportunities against the world's best sides ahead of their first-ever clash against Australia.#T20WorldCup | #AUSvBAN WATCH 👇 pic.twitter.com/2SyfbQmDAO
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) February 27, 2020
As for exposure on Australian soil is concerned, Pakistan had toured Australia only once before (in 2014), as have both West Indies (2014-15) and Sri Lanka (earlier this season). Let alone Bangladesh or Thailand, South Africa never played a T20I in Australia before the tournament.
If ICC are keen on expanding the sport – to be fair, they have done a rather good job since 2019 – they need to ensure more bilateral tours take place across the world.
The unexpected ploy
Not many teams would have backed themselves to field four spinners on Australian soil. India did that against New Zealand. They won, repeated the strategy against Sri Lanka, won again, and are likely to implement it again, both in the knockouts.
The Indian spinners, all of whom boast of different styles, have complemented each other and have stepped up when one of them sent down an ordinary over. They have bowled well in tandem as Shikha Pandey, the lone seamer, provided balance to the attack.
— Poonam Yadav (@poonam_yadav24) February 27, 2020
While it is true that they are the five best bowlers India have, going in with just one seamer on Australian soil is a strategy not many teams would have adopted.
In fact, several top teams have been more reliant on spin than they were probably expected to by experts including Ellyse Perry. Perry’s comments came after she had Tayla Vlaeminck rip through the Indian middle-order before the World Cup. Ironically, Australia have lost both fast bowlers since then, Vlaeminck before the tournament and Perry before the knockouts.
Molly Strano, a last-minute replacement for Vlaeminck, started the tournament well before Jess Jonassen and Georgia Wareham emerged as their main spinners. Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn (31.1-2-117-14 between them) have emerged the most dangerous spin pair of the tournament, and Amelia Kerr and Leigh Kasperek have been difficult to put away.
Sri Lanka’s overdependence on Athapaththu…
That Chamari Athapaththu is the finest batter in Sri Lankan women's cricket history is beyond dispute. Unfortunately, while she has been fantastic here, Sri Lanka’s dependence on her is has been worrying. Here are some numbers:
Athapaththu has scored 154 runs in the tournament. The sum of the next two entries – Hasini Perera (66) and Anushka Sanjeewani (57) – is 123.
Chamari Athapaththu had an excellent #T20WorldCup
👉 154 runs
👉 38.50 average
👉 135.08 strike-rate
👉 7 sixes
An absolute entertainer 💥 pic.twitter.com/OcKRrBdNoV
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) March 3, 2020
Athapaththu has batted four times here and has four (41, 50, 33, 30) of the top five scores for Sri Lanka.
She has also hit 19 fours and 7 sixes. Her teammates have 24 and 1 between them. One can go on. One must also remember here that she is one of Sri Lanka’s regular bowlers. With Shashikala Siriwardene, Sri Lanka’s premier bowler, hanging up her boots after the tournament, things do not look too bright for Sri Lanka.
… is just like West Indies’ on Taylor
Deandra Dottin’s comeback ended in a damp squib. Anisa Mohammed, while miserly, was not at her spectacular best in the tournament. This left Stafanie Taylor to assume too many responsibilities for West Indies – as their best batter, main strike bowler, and captain. And she did.
Anisa Mohammed: "Us seeing her want to win motivates us to want to win as well."
Deandra Dottin: "She gets a bit serious at times, but nevertheless she's fun to be around."
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) February 26, 2020
Taylor finished the tournament with 84 runs (dismissed only once) and 5 wickets (at 6.21 an over), topping both charts for West Indies – just like Dottin in 2018. Unfortunately, while Taylor was there to back Dottin in 2018 (she finished second on both lists), there was no support for Taylor this time.
As a result, West Indies – champions in 2016 and semi-finalists in 2018 (after finishing the group stage with an all-win streak) – were knocked out at the league stage this time. They finished with one win, against Thailand.
A family affair
South Africa had never beaten England at the Women’s T20 World Cup before this edition. When they eventually did, Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk played crucial roles in the win.
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) February 23, 2020
Kapp (4-0-19-2) and van Niekerk (4-0-20-2) first helped South Africa restrict England to a very gettable 123/8. Then, after Lizelle Lee fell early, the wives added 84 in 78 balls to set up the chase before Mignon du Preez, in her 100th T20I, decided to steal the show in a flurry of strokes.
It turned out to be a crucial win, for it put South Africa at the top of the Group B points table. In fact, if the semi-final is washed out (there is a prediction of heavy rain), South Africa will go through to the final.
Thailand’s days under the sun
Thailand Women had finished 2019 with the most T20I wins, but it was their qualification for the big tournament that catapulted them to fame. After the final of the Qualifiers, the cricketers from both Bangladesh and Thailand had huddled together and chorused “we are going to Australia!”
It was evident that this was a team like none other. After being demolished by New Zealand in the warm-up match, the Thailand players sought out their opponents, requesting the White Ferns for post-match coaching and mentorship sessions.
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) March 3, 2020
Sornnarin Tippoch showed up for the toss in their first match, against West Indies, with a gift for the rival captain. Her team smiled throughout the three matches that they lost, two of them convincingly. They often provided shade or two of brilliance in the field, and it all invariably ended in namastes and smiles.
And when Nattakan Chantam and Nattaya Boochatham were putting on their now-famous 93-run stand against Pakistan, their teammates in the dugout danced along to provide them with support. Tippoch was at the forefront.
She was disappointed when rain prevented them from near-certain success, but the dignity in her acceptance was obvious. It will be a shame if they do not get to play against the big teams more often.
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