India take on arch rivals Pakistan in their second Group B match of the 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 on Sunday at Providence Stadium in Guyana. As compared to the men, there may not be as much frenzy when the women face off, but the players always feel the tension of an India-Pakistan match. Pakistan in particular, have a tendency to lift their game whenever they face India in a T20 World Cup— having beaten them twice in the last three editions. If Javeria Khan’s team aims to improve on that record, they will have to win some key battles on Sunday.
Smriti Mandhana v Sana Mir
Smriti Mandhana has been one of the leading batters in the world over the last 12 months. Her form since the start of the year has been sensational for both India and Western Storm in the Women’s Super League in England. Interestingly, during India’s tour of Sri Lanka in September, Mandhana had some issues while facing off-spinner Shashikala Siriwardene. Bowling from over the wicket, Siriwardene was pitching the ball on middle-and-leg stump and getting it to turn away quite sharply. Mandhana found herself often feeling for the ball, unable to score with any freedom.
Sana Mir, also an off-spinner, who has been taking the new ball for Pakistan of late, is a similar bowler to Siriwardene. A canny operator, currently ranked no.1 in ODIs, Mir changes her pace beautifully, using slight variations in angle to outwit batters. She was able to extract some turn on the surface in Guyana during Pakistan’s first match against Australia. If Mandhana gets set, she has the ability to rip apart any attack, so Pakistan will be hoping Mir can dislodge her early.
Jemimah Rodrigues v Anam Amin
Anam Amin loves playing against India. In five T20Is, the left-arm spinner has taken five wickets at an average of 15.20 and an outstanding economy rate of 4.00. She is one of Pakistan’s key bowlers and often takes the new ball. When she last played against India— at the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur — Amin finished with figures of 2 for 10 in her four overs dismissing both Mithali Raj and Deepti Sharma without allowing them to score. Jemimah Rodrigues, who started the World Cup campaign with a measured half-century, handled New Zealand’s spinners brilliantly using her feet to smother the spin, but Amin will pose a different challenge than Amelia Kerr and Co. She has a deceptive arm ball, and with Rodrigues’ tendency to sometimes play around her front pad, she could prove dangerous.
Poonam Yadav v Bismah Maroof
Poonam Yadav is India’s premier wicket-taker in T20Is, while Bismah Maroof is arguably Pakistan’s best batter and also their best player of spin. Yadav, a leg-spinner, will bring the ball back into the left-handed Maroof, who quite enjoys playing the sweep shot. She gets a big stride forward, extends her arms and transfers her weight quite perfectly into the shot. Although she scored only 26 against Australia, Maroof looked in good touch — scoring square of the wicket on both sides of the ground. To counter Maroof’s sweep, it is likely Yadav will unveil her googly — a delivery she uses quite generously when bowling to left-handers. Yadav has the happy knack of picking up the big wickets in every game she plays. In India’s opening match, she dismissed Sophie Devine and Katey Martin; and within the Pakistan batting line-up, Maroof's is as big a wicket as they come. How the left-hander approaches the challenge that Yadav presents will most likely determine the outcome of the match, because if Pakistan want to pull off an upset, Maroof’s contributions will be key.
Aliya Riaz v Harmanpreet Kaur
In the space of 24 hours, Harmanpreet Kaur took India from dark horses to serious contenders in this T20 World Cup. Kaur’s scintillating century against New Zealand in the opening match stamped her authority on the tournament and sent warning signals to all the other teams in the competition. India seem a tough team to beat with their captain in such ominous touch. For Pakistan, Aliya Riaz could be the one to help keep her quiet. Kaur is extremely destructive against spin, but she does not start very well against pace. In Pakistan’s opening match, it was Riaz’s four-over spell of 2 for 25 that helped pull Australia back, restricting them to 165. The right-arm pacer bowled with a simple plan— full and straight— and used her slower deliveries to good effect. She shapes the ball away from the right-hander and could be a tricky customer to face at the start of the innings— certainly someone Kaur will be wary of.
Javeria Khan v India’s spinners
Statistically, Javeria Khan is Pakistan’s second-best batter in T20Is with 1,360 runs in 82 matches. Recently thrust into a leadership role due to Maroof’s illness, the right-hander is one of the team’s key figures in the middle order. Like most small built players, Khan likes pace on the ball, and looks to score square of the wicket. She uses her bottom hand to manoeuvre the ball into gaps and runs hard between the wickets. With the relatively slow, spin-friendly conditions in Guyana, India will likely stick with their four-pronged spin attack, not providing any pace for their opponents to work with. Khan, whose game lacks power— she has hit only two sixes in her T20I career— will have to find a way to score against India’s slow bowlers. Traditionally, she has struggled against the arch-rivals, but as captain, Khan will have to dig deep and try to lead by example.