As expected, India have made it to the semifinals of 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa. But to get their ticket to the final, scheduled on 26 February, they must overcome the challenge in the form of mighty Australia in the first semi-final of the competition, starting 6:30pm on Thursday evening.
Australia, also the defending champions, head into the semi-finals as firm favourites, especially with a 3-2 upper hand over India in Women’s T20 World Cup matches. Moreover, Australia got the better of India in the 2020 T20 World Cup final and Commonwealth Games gold medal match last year.
Australia had also won a five-game T20I series in India 4-1, apart from a warm-up match victory earlier in the month. But they will be wary of India’s giant-killing instinct, a glimpse of which was seen when they secured a thrilling super-over victory in the second game of the series in front of 47,000 spectators at the DY Patil Stadium last year. Also, India is the only side to whom Australia have lost twice since 2021.
India’s only defeat in the 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup has come against England.
Coming back to the competition, though the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side won three of its four games (defeat came to England by 11 runs) to finish second in Group 2, they have been unable to click as a unit, with inconsistency in top-order and playing too many dot balls coming to the fore.
For India, wicketkeeper-batter Richa Ghosh has stepped up to lead the charge as a finisher, having been dismissed once in four games, while scoring 122 runs at a strike rate of 140, and thriving in South African conditions, where she was a member of the U19 Women’s T20 World Cup winning team.
After missing the first game against Pakistan due to a finger injury, vice-captain and left-handed opener Smriti Mandhana has hit form with back-to-back fifties against England and Ireland while Jemimah Rodrigues has been great too. But India would want Shafali Verma and captain Harmanpreet Kaur to step up with the bat in the semi-final.
With the ball, fast bowler Renuka holds the key as her swing has troubled batters during group stages of the competition. As of now, Renuka has picked seven wickets at an impressive economy rate of 5.46.
Deepti Sharma, despite going big for one over against Ireland, has been tidy with the ball. But India will hope Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Devika Vaidya and Radha Yadav step up with the ball in the match.Australia, on the other hand, entered the semi-finals after finishing the group stage unbeaten. Wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy, despite missing Australia’s last match against South Africa due to quad soreness, has slammed two fifties in three games.
Tahlia McGrath also gave a good example of her batting power when she hit a fifty against South Africa. Ashleigh Gardner, Ellyse Perry, Georgia Wareham, Megan Schutt and Darcie Brown have been very impactful with bat and ball on various occasions for Australia during the tournament.
While Megan has picked eight wickets at an average of 9.75, and an economy rate of 5.57, Georgia has scalped six wickets in three games at an economy rate of 5.27. Australia do enter the semi-final as overwhelming favourites for the ticket to the final.
But if India summon their proactivity, shun the run of losing knockout matches and click as a cohesive unit, then they can be on course for clearing the mighty Australian hurdle and make a second successive T20 World Cup final appearance.
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Smriti Mandhana (vice-captain), Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Richa Ghosh (wicketkeeper), Jemimah Rodrigues, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Radha Yadav, Renuka Thakur, Anjali Sarvani, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Shikha Pandey.
Australia: Meg Lanning (captain), Alyssa Healy (vice-captain), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland and Georgia Wareham