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. Here are Raf’s predictions for Australia’s group – Group B. (You can read Syd’s predictions for England’s group – Group A – here.)
It goes without saying that Australia are far and away the favourites for the trophy. That’s nothing new, but the gap between them and the rest seems to be growing, not narrowing, given the strides they’ve made with payment of state players recently.
The issues they faced in last year’s World Cup in England, including an underwhelming pace bowling attack, have not entirely gone away. Megan Schutt’s dad may think that no one is within a cooee of Australia, but their real problem is finding a quick bowler who is within a cooee of Schutt (currently the ICC’s number 1 ranked bowler in T20s). Is newbie 20-year-old Tayla Vlaeminck the answer? I’m not convinced.
Australia’s real strength, as ever, lies in their mouthwatering batting line-up, which just keeps coming at you, especially now they’ve opted to drop both Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry down the order, with Alyssa Healy and Ash Gardner doing the job of quick-hitting up top. With this likely to be a batsman’s tournament, it’s hard to see anyone standing in the way of Australia securing their fourth T20 title.
New Zealand’s performances in England this summer summed up their recent fortunes as a team: feast – breaking the world record with the bat on the first day of the tri-series – followed by famine, as they succumbed to England in both the T20 and ODI formats. Batting collapses are now their speciality, and they will need their middle-order to grow a backbone if they are to avoid the kind of disasters we saw in England, with youngsters Jess Watkin and Bernadine Bezuidenhout shouldering some responsibility. With Amy Satterthwaite facing her first World Cup at the helm, the hope is clearly that this will allow Suzie Bates (still the number 1 ranked T20 batsman in the world) to get back to her usual consistency with the bat. Ultimately, whatever their recent issues, there is just no discounting a team who possess (in Bates and Sophie Devine) the best opening partnership in world cricket, bar none.
It’s been a difficult year for India since the excitement surrounding their appearance in the World Cup final at Lord’s, culminating in a revolt against their coach Tushar Arothe, who was recently replaced by Ramesh Powar. Unfortunately scapegoating your coach doesn’t tend to solve any underlying issues. For India the biggest of those is inconsistency, exemplified in the up-and-down showings of captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who suffered a poor KSL campaign though has recovered some recent form against Australia A. Much of their batting line-up, including Mithali Raj, are better suited to the longer formats; Smriti Mandhana, as Western Storm supporters will attest, is the key exception, and her performances will be crucial. Leg-spinner and number-2 ranked T20 bowler Poonav Yadav is also enjoying a good year. Overall, though, I can’t see them progressing beyond the group stages.
Since taking home the “wooden spoon” at last year’s World Cup Pakistan have dusted themselves off and posted some historic results, including a maiden ODI win against New Zealand. They’ve undoubtedly got some good players and are fortunate to have Bismah Maroof, their best batsman, returning to the side after undergoing sinus surgery earlier in the year. Sana Mir, meanwhile, has recently been named as the number one ranked bowler in ODI cricket. Nonetheless their recent 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Australia shows just how far they have to go in the T20 format, and it seems unlikely that they’ll do well enough in a difficult group to reach the semi-finals.
Ireland’s chances of winning this tournament are best encapsulated in the bookies’ odds accompanying their campaign: currently 500-1. While the inclusion of Gaby Lewis and Lucy O’Reilly in the ICC’s Global Development Squad bodes well for the future, it’s telling that their best players – including WBBL “Rookie” Kim Garth – still rely on external opportunities to develop their game. While Ireland played in the 2014 and 2016 tournaments, they’ve never won a WWT20 match, and though it would be fitting for stalwarts Clare Shillington and Ciara Metcalfe (who have both announced they will be retiring at the end of the WWT20) to go out on a high, sadly it seems unlikely that they will break their losing streak this time around.
Group A: England (winners); South Africa (runners up)
Group B: Australia (winners); New Zealand (runners up)
Eventual Winners: Australia
Outside Bet: West Indies