At the half-way(ish) point in this World Cup, who’s top of the class… and who is in the corner with the dunce’s cap?
The Southern Stars head the table, having won all their games, but somehow without ever looking entirely convincing. Their saving grace is their long batting line-up – even if they find themselves 5-down, they’ve still got Alyssa Healy to come in and smash a half century at a Strike Rate of over 150, as she did against Pakistan; but sooner or later they are going to come up against someone who won’t let them off the hook for scoring just 18 runs in the powerplay, as Pakistan did that day. In fact if I was an Australian fan, I might actually be hoping that they lose to England this weekend, because this team have a loss in them somewhere, and if it isn’t now, it might just be at Lords in two Sundays time!
India played 14 ODIs in the 12 months leading into this World Cup, losing just one of them, and it shows! Yes, they were mainly against lower-ranked sides, including 3 hammerings of a very young Ireland team in South Africa; but winning is a habit, and one that has continued here, as their opening victory against England has set the tone for 4 wins and no losses. Then there is Smriti Mandhana – she only played 3 of those 14 ODIs, due to injury, but she has come back with some big, classical runs; and if anyone looks ready to grace “The Home of Cricket” in that final, it is this 20-year-old prodigy.
England were lucky with the program after the opening loss to India allowed them to regroup with matches against the two weakest sides coming into the tournament, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The real test was South Africa, and their batsmen passed it with ease – plundering 373 runs from their world-leading bowling attack. But… but… their bowlers then proceeded to allow South Africa’s most-definitely not world-leading batting lineup to take over 300 off them in return; and it is clear that overall the bowling – particularly the much-vaunted opening partnership of Shrubsole and Brunt – is not quite hitting the high notes for whatever reason, and that has to be a worry when it comes to the crunch.
After a slightly scratchy opening win against Sri Lanka, where they looked rusty in particular in the field, New Zealand are starting to come together. Yes, they lost to Australia, but it was a close-run thing in the end, and there were big positives to take from that game: the bowling of Amelia Kerr – no one will ever play her without a little trepidation again, after the way she did Meg Lanning and Elyse Villani; and then their win against the West Indies, where Rachel Priest got things back on track with the big, quick runs that the White Ferns need from her.
The Women Proteas are another side who have played a lot of ODIs in the past year – a whopping 31 of them prior to #WWC17. (England played just 9 in the same period.) They have a bowling attack which actually merits the word “attack” and their slaughter of the West Indies for 48 has shown that you can’t underestimate them; but are they the unlucky team that have the best bowling unit in a batsman’s World Cup? The weather gods probably did them a favour by handing them a draw against New Zealand, but New Zealand have already ground-down the NRR advantage the big win against West Indies gave them, and they still have Australia and India yet to play, so a semi-final spot remains a big ask; but what they have done here already is prove that they indeed belong among the “Top” sides.
Sri Lanka… if they were honest with themselves… probably expected to be bottom at this stage of the tournament, so in a way they have definitely over-performed, despite not winning a match. Chamari Atapattu hit a half-century to make a game of it versus New Zealand, and then followed-up with that huge 178* against Australia – currently the biggest knock of #WWC17. They put on 200 against England, and then came closer than India would have liked to causing an upset in their match, finishing just 16 short.
After coming close to taking advantage of South Africa’s batting fragilities in their opening game – the closest match of the tournament so far – they have struggled. They are very, very dependent on Sana Mir to prop things up with both the bat and the ball, but at 31 she won’t go on for ever, and what they do then… goodness only knows!
Who could have predicted that the West Indies would be taking an early flight home from #WWC17? Well… to be fair… anyone who looked at their recent stats, which make the World T20 win look more like a blip than the start of something – and so it is proving here. Their stars – Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews – aren’t firing – none of their batsmen has hit a 50 yet; whilst their bowlers can’t buy a wicket – they have taken just 7 in the tournament so far.