There is little doubt that Australia Women will start the upcoming Women’s T20 Tri-Nation Series at home – also featuring India and England – as overwhelming favourites. England and India will get to play each other twice in the league phase, but when it comes to playing Australia, they will have to pin their hopes on the sheer unpredictability of the 20-over format.
It is not merely about the ICC rankings either (though Australia are top ranked there as well, while England are second and India fourth). From the start of the 2018 World T20 in the West Indies, Australia have won 13 T20Is and lost just 2 – albeit to India and England.
The defeat against India had come in their last match of the group stage, at Providence, following which they trounced West Indies and England to lift the trophy. They then lost to England at Bristol, but only after they had taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
The margins of victory, too, make incredible reading. They have won six times batting first, of which the lowest margin has been 33 runs. And they have lost just 13 wickets in the seven matches where they chased, six of which they have finished with more than two overs in hand.
But there is more. Almost every member of the Australian squad has had decent outings in the WBBL not too long ago – a tournament the Indians had skipped altogether. While some England cricketers – Danni Wyatt, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Heather Knight – have had decent outings, none of them exactly dominated the tournament.
It is difficult to match the sheer depth of the Australian batting or bowling attacks. Not only is Alyssa Healy among the most destructive top-order batters in women’s cricket, she also has the advantage of going hammer-and-tongs from the onset, for Australia have excellent buffer in case she departs early. Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes, and Ellyse Perry form an excellent quartet.
Perry and Megan Schutt, on the other hand, can both run through sides, while Jess Jonassen has evolved into one of the finest spinners in contemporary cricket. Delissa Kimmince and Tayla Vlaeminck, too, had impressed during the WBBL. Remember, Healy, Perry, and Jonassen are all bona-fide all-rounders, which allows the team management more flexibility.
India, on the other hand, has had a decent (but not excellent) performance over the same period, winning 12 and losing eight. This included a run of seven consecutive defeats (one in World T20 semi-final before 0-3 wipe-outs in New Zealand and at home, against England. It has been a topsy-turvy journey.
India may draw some inspiration from the fact that they had beaten Australia when the sides had last met, in the World T20 as mentioned above. Since then they had made some changes, the most significant of which has been the sudden influx of young (even teenage), aggressive top-order batters.
While Jemimah Rodrigues had arrived earlier, Harleen Deol, Shafali Verma, and uncapped Richa Ghosh have been welcome additions; all of them have demonstrated their no-holds-barred self over this time; and all of them have been included the squad – a refreshing change to India’s T20 approach from early 2018.
India do boast of an excellent bowling attack as well, but they have been overly dependent on spin for some time. Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav, and Deepti Sharma, all of whom are in the top six in ICC rankings, form an excellent attack. They will also have support in Rajeshwari Gayakwad. Unfortunately, a spin-heavy attack is unlikely to thrive in Australia. They are yet to find a replacement for Jhulan Goswami, a spearhead who will partner Shikha Pandey.
Pooja Vastrakar has been considered for some time. She had gone for runs in the initial overs till the South Africa series, following which India opened with a spinner alongside Pandey, allowing Vastrakar to bowl in the middle overs. She has eased into the role since then, contributing with bat at the same time, allowing India some flexibility. However, India would have preferred a quicker bowler in that role at the cost of a batter.
That leaves England, who have lost the T20I series against Australia at home but have won their last four T20Is against India including a 3-0 sweep on Indian soil. Of all major, England’s win loss ratio of 3.5 (14 wins, four defeats) has been the best since the last World T20. Though this is a multi-nation tournament, it is probably worth a mention here that England have not lost a single bilateral T20I away from home in a decade.
Just like Australia and India, England have their pair of explosive openers. Danni Wyatt and Amy Jones are both in reasonable form. There is also Heather Knight, capable of controlling the pace of an innings at will, but on a one-on-one basis, they fall behind Australia in firepower. Unlike India (but like Australia), however, England have an excellent pace attack: Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole, and Kate Cross can be more than a handful on pitches with additional bounce.
Despite that, however, the Australians will remain the team to beat: quality, form, familiarity of conditions, match practice – everything points at that.
India Women Squad: Harleen Deol, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur(c), Veda Krishnamurthy, Deepti Sharma, Shikha Pandey, Taniya Bhatia(w), Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Nuzhat Parween, Pooja Vastrakar, Arundhati Reddy, Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh
England Women Squad: Danielle Wyatt, Amy Ellen Jones(w), Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight(c), Natalie Sciver, Katherine Brunt, Lauren Winfield, Georgia Elwiss, Anya Shrubsole, Kate Cross, Fran Wilson, Sophie Ecclestone, Sarah Glenn, Freya Davies, Mady Villiers
Australia Women Squad: Annabel Sutherland, Meg Lanning (Captain), Rachael Haynes, Ashleigh Gardner, Delissa Kimmince, Ellyse Perry, Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Alyssa Healy (Keeper),Beth Mooney, Jess Jonassen, Sophie Molineux, Megan Schutt, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
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