In the last set of matches in the group stage of the World Cup, Indian women will face New Zealand. Both the teams have two losses each for their side and will face off in a do or die match for the semis qualification. India had won four consecutive games at the beginning of the tournament but sloppy batting performances in the next two matches resulted in consecutive losses. New Zealand has three wins to their name and is a point below India in the points table.
With three days left for the knockouts, this match is a pseudo quarter-final for both the teams who have been striving to make their way through. There are some key issues to be dealt with for both the teams. New Zealand has won all their matches against the relatively weaker opponents like the Sri Lankan and Pakistani women who are placed at the bottom of the table. Their performance against the more formidable sides like England and Australia has been poor. There has been little of no solid batting display from this side. In the more crucial matches, the top order has not performed as well as the easy matches. Though, opener, Priest has one half century in the tournament, her highest score against the top sides is 12. Captain Bates leading from the front is their highest run getter for the tournament and her performance in this match will be crucial for the Black Caps. Amelia Kerr, the 16-year-old wonder kid for the side has been their highest wicket taker so far and needs to keep up with her form if they wish to come close to defeating India.
India, on the other hand, has had a descending experience in the World Cup. Defeating England in the first match was a solid morale boost for the side which led to 3 more victories in a row and everything was looking fine with the team. But come the bigger challenges of South Africa and Australia, the Indian batting rattled. Smriti Mandhana at the top order, the star performer in the first two matches with her flamboyant playing style has been since unable to score anything in the double figures. A tighter field for her in the power plays has been one of the techniques applied successfully by the opponent teams against her. Mithali Raj and Punam Raut have been the long sown roots of the Indian batting and have not disappointed here too, but the middle and lower order apart from some cameos from Deepti Sharma has been disappointing. In both the matches India lost, the middle order went down in a collapse which destroyed a well-laid foundation of a good score. If this kind of performance continues from the Indian camp, the semis berth could be something they would have to forget. The New Zealand bowling as we have seen has not let down in keeping the run rates down and putting pressure on the batting side which has till now been the sole reason for India’s collapse.
India cannot keep playing under the big names of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami. Underdogs like Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, and Sushma Verma will be needed to rise to the occasion and perform to their best if they want to qualify further.
In another important contest of the day, Australia will face South Africa which can severely change the looks of the semis as from what it is now. Both the teams are in a good form and this match would be something to look forward to. England will face West Indies in their last group match which could be a one sided affair as England are enjoying a five match undefeated spell.