The ICC Women's T20 World Cup final will see two of the top teams in the shortest format of the women's game take each other on at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. India and Australia have met each other four times in T20 World Cups with each side winning two games apiece.
This tournament will end just as it began with an India - Australia clash and broadcasters and fans are pumped up for this grand finale, with Australia, five-time title winners being favourites to win another World Cup despite India's success against them earlier in the tournament.
While this will be a clash between two heavyweights in the women's game, the onus is on the individual players to make it a match to remember. Here we take a glance at a few key battles that could decide the outcome of the final at Melbourne.
Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy vs Deepti Sharma
Australia's openers are quite a duo. Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy are among the world's best T20 openers in the women's game and have the numbers to prove it. Since the end of the last T20 World Cup, Mooney and Healy are in the top five run-getters in the world with 645 runs (second position) and 548 runs (fifth position) respectively.
The two have a partnership run-rate of 8.14 at the top of the order since 2019 and thrive on starting fluently. Deepti Sharma has been used in the powerplay a lot by India this World Cup to control teams. The diligent off-spinner has exceptional control and has restricted teams with her stump to stump lines.
In the first game of the tournament against the Aussies, she bowled three overs inside the powerplay and leaked just 12 runs. In eight powerplay overs this tournament, she has conceded just 49 runs.
Deepti has had the better of the Aussie openers on five occasions. Mooney, who has been dismissed by right-arm spinners in 14 of her 38 dismissals, has had her fair share of struggles against Deepti. The Indian off-break bowler has dismissed her thrice in T20Is so far with each dismissal coming in a different fashion: caught out, bowled and stumped.
Healy, on the other hand, struggled against Deepti in the recent tri-series in Australia where the Indian spinner dismissed her at Melbourne - venue of the finals - twice in successive matches, both inside the powerplays. Deepti's spell to the openers could be crucial to India's chances to make early inroads in a long batting line-up.
Smriti Mandhana vs Megan Schutt
No bowler has dismissed Smriti Mandhana as many times as Megan Schutt in T20Is. The Australian pace bowler has had the better of the southpaw on four occasions in the shortest format of the game and a further two times in ODIs.
Schutt last dismissed her in the final of the tri-series at Melbourne last month when she returned for a second spell to stop a rampaging Mandhana. In the 15th over of the innings, Schutt tried to bounce Mandhana - who was on 66 off 36 balls at the time - and the top-edge was snaffled up in the deep.
It is worth noting that three of her four dismissals to Schutt has come with her well set at the crease - scores of 29, 83 and 66. Even in ODIs, one of the two dismissals came after she had made a ton. It reveals that while Schutt has been successful against the left-hander, it hasn't usually come early in an innings.
Mandhana is woefully out of touch this World Cup with scores of 10, 11 and 17. Schutt, meanwhile, is the joint-highest wicket-taker with nine scalps at an average of 12.89. These numbers, though, won't matter in the finals if one of these two find the right tempo early on. This attritional battle could be a key element in the finals.
Harmanpreet Kaur and Shafali Verma vs Jess Jonassen
Jess Jonassen will be a key player in Australia's finals as she holds the aces over the Indian skipper, Harmanpreet Kaur, and their top-flight batter, Shafali Verma.
Twice in the last month - in the tri-series finals and the first game of this tournament - Kaur has fallen to the left-arm spinner, both times deceived by the flight and revolutions she gives the ball. Verma, meanwhile, isn't as well versed against spin and extreme pace and tends to fall early to them.
Jonassen has contrasting records against the two key Indian batters. While she has dismissed Kaur thrice in the format, she is yet to get the better of Verma.
In the tri-series final, Jonassen flummoxed Kaur with a slow slider that went on with the angle to rap her pads. In the World Cup opener, it was sharp turn that fooled her as she stepped out to launch Jonassen down the ground.
Kaur has had a disappointing World Cup so far but will be the key figure in the middle-order as India women seek a maiden World Cup triumph. Her T20 World Cup record is disappointing: 454 runs at an average of just over 20 in 29 games and seven tournaments with two scores over 50.
Jonassen, meanwhile, has 19 wickets at an average of 22.05 and an economy rate of 5.64 in T20 World Cups. The spinner will be expected to work over the opposition skipper given her recent success against her.
Shafali Verma has proved to be the difference between India and its opponents in this World Cup so far. The dynamic 16-year old has racked up scores of 29, 39, 46 and 47, finishing with the Man of the Match award twice. Her strike rate of 161 is the best in the tournament and stopping her seems unfathomable for now.
She has a minor weakness against spin which Australia seemed to have grasped by the start of this tournament. They opened the attack with Molly Strano in the opener and although the move didn't pay dividends, spin is indeed the way to go against her early. Jonassen, who picked up a five-wicket haul against India in the tri-series final last month, could be ideal to leash Verma.
The Aussie spinner can take cue from Sophie Ecclestone who had dismissed Verma in the powerplay in a game in the tri-series with a quicker slider angled into her, denying her room for a cut. Verma chopped onto the stumps to give England a wicket. Jonassen is naturally slower through the air but a quicker variation might just catch the Indian opener off guard.
Rachael Haynes vs Poonam Yadav
Poonam Yadav has been critical to India's bowling plans. The joint-highest wicket-taker in the World Cup so far with nine wickets at an average of 9.89, Poonam has been the destructor-in-chief in the middle overs for India. The team's template has been to restrict the scoring rate early on to force opposition sides to take on their best bowler in the second half of the innings.
Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning are the only Aussie women batters in the middle-order with more than 100 runs this World Cup. They will have the arduous task of stopping the Poonam juggernaut in the middle overs and denying her wickets. In the first game of the tournament, Haynes was out stumped to Poonam, two overs after Rajeshwari Gayakwad had sent back Lanning.
Haynes was nearly part of a hat-trick as Poonam dismissed Ellyse Perry next ball and had Jonassen edging to Taniya Bhatia, only for the keeper to drop, the ball after that. Australia cannot afford another collapse to the leg-spinner and the key would be their two middle-order batters.
Haynes is a crucial player in Australia's middle and death overs as she showed in the tri-series finals where she slammed a 18 in 7 balls to give the Aussies a late surge. Stopping her and finding a way to the lower middle-order will be upon Poonam and her exceptional skill sets this World Cup final.
Meg Lanning vs Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Radha Yadav
Meg Lanning has an average of close to 40 against India in T20Is. Her strike rate, though, is only just above 100 compared to an overall strike rate of around 117. Australia's skipper is a big player for the team behind the openers and getting rid of her early will be on India's planning board.
One factor that works in India's favour is the presence of two left-arm spinners who have had success against Lanning in the past. Four of her six dismissals to Indian spinners have come against Radha Yadav and Rajeshwari Gayakwad with each dismissing her twice apiece.
Three of Lanning's dismissals in matches against India last month came against the spinners with Radha dismissing her in the finals of the tri-series and Gayakwad getting rid of her cheaply in the World Cup opener. A sheet anchor for the Aussies, Lanning will have a tough task as these left-arm spinners operate in tandem soon after the powerplay.
With Poonam Yadav waiting to be unleashed soon after, Lanning cannot afford to play out either of the left-arm spinners and this could lead to a terrific battle for supremacy soon after the frantic first six overs.
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