In the first of a series of regular columns, James Piechowski takes a look at the group stages of the WWT20, and assesses how each of the top 8 ranked nations fared…
Group A: New Zealand power through on cruise control; Australia steady the ship through choppy waters
Final Qualifying Table
|Position||Team||Won||Lost||Net Run Rate||Points|
|1||New Zealand (Q)||4||0||+2.430||8|
|3||Sri Lanka||2||2||– 0.240||4|
|4||South Africa||1||3||+ 0.173||2|
Q = Qualified for semi-final stage
New Zealand cruised through to the semi-finals with relatively little trouble. Many eyebrows were raised when they defeated champions Australia comprehensively at Nagpur by six wickets with almost 4 overs to spare. But it’s easy to see why they have been so successful. Their top order is packed with 5 world-class players, all in form and all at the top of their game. Their captain, Suzie Bates, is a shrewd operator who is arguably their best batsman, able to see a game through from start to finish, and offer a few overs of medium pace as well. Rachel Priest’s ability to repeatedly bludgeon the ball to the boundary is perhaps only surpassed in the side by Sophie Devine, another quality big hitter who is also very useful with the ball. She performed superbly in the final game against South Africa, taking 3-17 and scoring 27 from just 17 balls. The experience of Sara McGlashan and flexible inventiveness of Amy Sattherthwaite round out a fine top line batting order. With the ball, they have the in-form off-spinner Leigh Kasperek who, with 9 scalps, currently sits top of the wicket-taking list. This interesting article describes her Scottish roots.
She is ably supported by economical spinners Erin Bermingham and Morna Nielsen. In fact New Zealand’s only weaknesses would appear to be their batting below number 5-6, and the fact that the side have yet to be really tested in this competiton. They have been known to crumble under pressure in the not too distant past, so the other sides still do have a chance against them.
Australia made the semis comfortably enough in the end, but not without a couple of little scares along the way. A shaky start against South Africa was brought under control by the calm and experienced Alex Blackwell and Meg Lanning. But their top order was blown away by New Zealand, and even a fine recovery effort by the world’s premier all-rounder, Ellyse Perry, could not build a total high enough to defend. The performances have stabilised since, and Megan Schutt has emerged as a bowler to watch out for. In Meg Lanning, Australia have arguably the single most impressive player in the women’s game – a batter of superb technical ability, strong mentality and a captain who is always on the ball and rarely misses a trick in the field. The way in which she handles Australia’s bowling options, with regular changes of personnel to prevent the opposition batters becoming set, will be key if they are to progress to the final.
South Africa will be disappointed with their showing at this WWT20. They did not manage to live up to their performance in 2014, in which they reached the semi-finals, despite the visible improvements which have been made within the squad since then. In the final group game, the side gave a very sluggish and nervous chase in response to a modest target from Sri Lanka. They failed to use their feet and leave the crease and instead insisted on playing back and across the line. Their lack of a proactive approach was telling, as they fell 11 runs short in chasing just 114.
Notably, key players Mignon Du Preez, Lizelle Lee, Shabnim Ismail and Dane van Niekerk largely failed to fire together in concert, providing only bitty performances – which is surprising considering how effective they were in the recent series against England. I think SA will have to look at how they structure their team. Against the top sides, they appeared to be a batter short. Considering Kapp and Van Niekerk can bowl their full allocation of 4 overs, yet bat in the top 4, it seems unnecessary to field a further 4 bowlers and an all-rounder as well. Replacing one bowler with either an established batter, or the promising Laura Wolvaardt who was not included in the squad, may have served better. Instead, quality bowlers were left with spare overs, and the batting was caught short.
Jayangani (Chamari Atapattu) stood out as Sri Lanka’s best player. A smooth, fluid batter, she was strong sweeping through the leg side and harsh against width outside off. Unfortunately the rest of the team were too often short in their contributions, which hampered efforts to set challenging targets. And their bowling attack perhaps lacked the consistent threat to take early wickets in response, although was generally economical, with Kumari and Prabhodani looking promising. Weerakkody also has talent, and is a flexible player who can bat and keep wicket well. The improvements made in recent times are quite apparent – the side are now much more competitive all round, and the win against South Africa in their final game showed that.
A review of Group B will follow tomorrow.