Feb. 20, 2020, 9:37 p.m.
This Friday, the Womens T20 World Cup kicks off in Australia. Two groups of five will compete for progress to the semi-finals, with the top two from each group making it through. In Group A, we have Australia, New Zealand, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The strong favourites for the competition, Australia look primed and ready. They have won 84% of their matches since the start of 2018, losing just four matches in that time – Meg Lanning’s side will be extremely confident that they can keep this run going through the next few weeks. With Alyssa Healy the fastest scorer in the world on their side, backed up by a nimble and inventive bowling attack with all bases covered, it’s easy to see why many are tipping the Australians for glory.
The second favourites in the group, India are an ever-growing force. Reaching the final in the 50 Over World Cup in 2017, then a semi-final in the 2018 World T20, they have become one of the more consistent outfits in the international game. Their bowling attack is spearheaded by the leg spinner Poonam Yadav, who in several respects stands at the top of her craft. In the last two years, she finds an average amount of 3.97° spin, more than any other T20I bowler in the world. The result of that movement off the pitch is that Poonam has taken more wickets than anyone else in the world, 51 dismissals seeing her ahead of the chasing pack.
New Zealand are still reliant on a core group of very experienced players, but those players have at least been in good form. In particular, the recent work of Sophie Devine in the WBBL will have fans of the Kiwi side rather excited. The leading run scorer in this season of the WBBL, ending it with a batting average just under 80, Devine has had clear and obvious success in Australian conditions, and against many of the bowlers she will be facing over the next few weeks.
Bangladesh are outsiders in this group, and will struggle to qualify – but they have a clear plan, and a strong identity as a side. Over the last two years, the only side to bowl more of their overs with spinners than Bangladesh is Pakistan, with Salma Khatun’s side bowling a whopping 71% of their deliveries with spin. Whilst the effectiveness of those spinners does vary – and, like many Asian players down the years, they may struggle to adapt to the unique challenges of bowling in Australia – having such a settled approach does give Bangladesh a blueprint to work with.
The least effective of these sides in recent times, Sri Lanka are unlikely to progress. They have won just four of their 25 matches since the start of 2018, a win percentage of only 16% – that is the lowest win percentage of any side to play 20+ T20Is in that period. They are still very reliant on Chamari Atapattu for batting, with her 460 runs in T20I since the start of 2018 comfortably the most by any Sri Lanka, by a very wide margin. If they are to have any success in Group A, it’ll come with her runs at the centre.
In all likelihood, Australia will top the group and progress through to the semi-finals with little bother, but the real battle will be between New Zealand and India for the second place spot. In their last three encounters, New Zealand have come out on top in each match, but all three matches were in New Zealand. Away from home and without that local experience, things could be rather different – either way, that’s likely to be the match which determines who’ll be joining Australia in the knockouts.