As we make our way to the penultimate match of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, the India and England teams will be training hard in their camps. The biggest match of the tournament beholds a lot of talent and vigour to be unleashed. England on one side is enjoying a streak of 7 consecutive wins whereas India arose from within after losing 2 consecutive matches. Both the sides equally matched on paper will come to all guns blazing for the crown of the ‘Queen of cricket’.
England’s only defeat in the tournament came against India in their first match. India batting first in that match set an unassailable target of 282 similar to the one they set for Australia in the semis. Exceptional batting performances at the top of the order made India’s beginning of the tournament a surreal experience. The bowlers too did not disappoint. Only one English batter could complete her half century in the chase. Deepti Sharma and Shikha Pandey were the most successful bowlers with 3 and 2 wickets respectively.
England though was in no way deterred after the loss. They came out even stronger against Pakistan setting up a total of 377 with centuries from Heather Knight and Natalie Sciver. They defeated Pakistan comfortably with the Duckworth-Lewis rules in place after rain interruptions. They are the only team to score 300+ scores twice in the tournament which is a true testament to the batting prowess of the team. Be it Australia, South Africa or New Zealand an entire lot of top ranked teams were defeated by the pure virtue of their batting. They pulled out a cracking last over match against Australia which could have gone either side.
In the bowling department, there exists some scope of improvement, however. No English bowler is currently in the top 15 of the highest wicket takers of the tournament. Not only this, their highest wicket taker is Heather Knight who is a full-time batter. This is a sight of worry for the English team when they face a strong batting side like India. Though they have won 7 games on the trot, it is a matter of concern that how many were won depending on the bowling performance. The game against South Africa went on to see them reach at least 300 when chasing above 350. Also similar was the case we saw against Australia and New Zealand. However they seem to improve in the semis where they restricted the South Africans to 218, but that could have been the semifinal pressure seeping through. If there is an issue that England need to look upon right a day before the final it’s their bowling strategy. The last time they played India, both the openers were able to penetrate the attack without any hassle. If this remains to be the case, given the form of India’s rising middle order, the English women could find themselves in deep trouble.
Coming on to the Indian perspective, winning a do or die quarter-final against New Zealand in a pressure match and then defeating the world champions in the semis has lifted their hopes up sky high. They faced a mid-tournament crisis with consecutive losses and were a whisker away from being knocked out. But the team looked to have worked on their mistakes and arriving at the pitch with a new bundle of confidence. We saw the rise of two silent Indian middle order batswoman in the previous matches which otherwise would have led to India’s exit. Both the matches India lost witnessed a horrible collapse of the middle order which could not have been sustained for much longer. Veda Krishnamurthy against New Zealand and Harmanpreet Kaur against Australia showed the side of Indian batting which was unrevealed for the whole of the tournament. At what better time could India have hoped the revival of form for its players? An astounding display of destructive batting without trying anything out of the box is how pleasing the Harmanpreet’s inning was. But there still remain some loopholes in the Indian side.
The opening pair has failed to perform for the last 6 matches which are an alarming factor for the Indian side. Smriti and Punam have had their share of decent performances right at the start of the tournament but those have faded away in the course. A new side of the openers must turn up in the finals to let India have a chance at the title.
While chasing, India has not been able to handle the pressure of the rising required rate. We saw this against South Africa wherein in an attempt to increase the run rate, the whole batting lineup went down in a domino fashion. If chasing in this match, India would have to keep an eye on the rate from the first delivery itself. This team did not have many chances of chasing in the tournament but has failed to live up to the expectations when doing so. In this pressure match, if England bat first to set a massive total which they most likely would, India would have to find a way to keep their calm in the chase. A single mistake at the top can trigger a chain reaction at the bottom.
Both the teams have a lot of home work to do before they take on the field tomorrow. Any team winning the toss would want to bat first as both of their records show better results this way and it’s always safer to put up a total in a crucial match as the experts say. The Lord’s is all set to witness the final clash to see who takes the title of the ‘Queens of cricket’.