The Women’s World T20 is less than a week away now – we are flying out to the West Indies on Thursday, with England’s first match against Sri Lanka coming up on Saturday. The competition is initially divided into two groups of 5, with the winners and runners-up going through to the semi-finals and final. First up, Syd previews England’s group – Group A – and makes some predictions; then check back here later for Raf’s preview of Group B and her predictions.
The 50-over world champions have high hopes of adding the other global title to their trophy cabinet, following on from a successful summer where they beat South Africa and New Zealand in both limited-overs formats, setting down a marker at Taunton where they posted a T20 world record 250-3 against South Africa. Coach Mark Robinson surprised everyone by naming 3 debutantes in his squad, and he may well need them as he sweats on the availability of Katherine Brunt, who is fighting to be fit for the start of the group stages. If Brunt is unfit, expect one of those debutantes – Linsey Smith – to be thrown straight into the deep end to open the bowling against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Even without Brunt, however, England will be expected to make the semi-finals, and they will be bitterly disappointed if they don’t go at least one step further too.
It has been a mixed 12 months for the Women Proteas since they came within a cats-whisker of making the World Cup final in 2017. They ran-in last in the Tri-Series with England and New Zealand over the summer, and against the West Indies last month, having drawn the ODI series 1-1, they looked to be on-course for a T20 series defeat at 2-0 down with 2 to play. But they dragged themselves back against the Windies, with Lizelle Lee finding some form and Laura Wolvaardt hitting her maiden T20 half century, adding to the impression that, despite a slightly shallow batting lineup, they are a better side than their results over the English summer suggested; especially with Trisha Chetty (who missed the summer and autumn internationals) and Shabnim Ismail (who missed the West Indies tour) both returning to the fold. Will South Africa win the WWT20? Probably not – being thrashed by Pakistan in the warm-ups was not a good omen! But could they still win it if everything falls into place? Absolutely!
Although they are the holders, their disastrous World Cup in England last year, including being bowled out for 48 by South Africa, has led many to write the West Indies off for this tournament, despite home advantage. However, they beat England in an unofficial warm-up last week, and their best players – Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Anisa Mohammed – are still top, top performers. The star of the 2016 WWT20 final – Hayley Matthews – hasn’t quite lived up to her potential in the intervening 2 years, but she is only 20, so she has time-and-a-half on her side. Their group stage match against South Africa on Wednesday could well be their de facto quarter-final which determines whether they go on in the competition.
Sri Lanka have played 19 T20 internationals in the past 2 years, and have won just 4 of them, and it would be little surprise if they failed to add much to that statistic in the West Indies. They do have one weapon that the other “no hopers” don’t – a genuinely world class player in Chamari Atapattu, who has WBBL and KSL experience on her side – and if she fires they could pull off an upset (singular); but upsets (plural) would be a surprise.
The highest-ranked of the non-ICC Women’s Championship sides, Bangladesh look like rank outsiders; but then they also looked that way in the Asia Cup earlier this year. In that tournament they shocked India with a 7-wicket win in the group stages, and then went on to repeat the feat in the final, restricting a pretty-much full-strength India to 112, and then making the runs with two off the final ball to celebrate the biggest day in their cricketing history. Since that day they have also won the qualifying tournament in the Netherlands to earn the right to be here, and the news that they are due to be added to the ICC Championship after 2021 will be a further fillip for the up-and-comers, for whom holding their own here will be a victory in and of itself.
Group A: England (winners); South Africa (runners up)
Group B: Australia (winners); New Zealand (runners up)
Eventual Winners: Australia
Outside Bet: South Africa