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Australia Women v West Indies Women World T20 Preview – Final

Lanning's side is hungry for its fourth straight title, while Taylor will look to her star allrounders to step up again

02 April 2016 17:13 By Dileep Premachandran, Kolkata

It’s testament to both individual excellence and far-sighted selection policies that as many as 12 of the players that could play the Women’s World Twenty20 final on Sunday (April 3) at Eden Gardens were part of the final stages of the competition in the Caribbean in 2010. Merissa Aguilleira captained West Indies then, and Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin, Britney Cooper, Stacy-Ann King, Shemaine Campbelle and Anisa Mohammed were also part of the XI that lost the semifinal to New Zealand in St. Lucia. Australia can call on Alex Blackwell, who led the side then, as well as Elyse Villani, Rene Farrell, Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry.

The Australians have made it through to a fourth consecutive final on the back of some fairly patchy performances. Only Meg Lanning, the current captain, and Villani have tallied more than 100 runs. Perry, the star allrounder, has chipped in with 81, but has just three wickets to her name after five matches. Jess Jonassen, who would have been expected to thrive in Indian conditions, has taken just one wicket in 17 overs of left-arm spin.

Megan Schutt, despite being the most expensive of the Australian bowlers, has taken seven wickets, including an outstanding spell of 2 for 15 in the semifinal, when the wickets of Tammy Beaumont and a rampaging Katherine Brunt transformed a game that appeared to be England’s for the taking. Schutt, the leading wicket-taker in the 2013 Women’s World Cup, will be pivotal to Australia’s chances of controlling a West Indian batting line-up that amassed 143 in the semifinal.

“It’s certainly something that we pride ourselves on, I guess,” said Lanning when asked about the lack of a standout performer. “We’ve had a number of people contributing each game, and we’ve had that throughout the whole tournament, which has been pleasing.

“West Indies have a number of players who can take the game away from you. We saw Cooper in the semifinal, who scored 60 and played a big role there. We’ve certainly done our homework on the big players, but certainly don’t think that they’re the ones who’re going to win the games for them. They’re a settled team that have been playing some good cricket, so we’re going to have to keep an eye out for all of them.”

Australian’s own plans for this competition were disrupted when Grace Harris, who smashed the first hundred in the Women’s Big Bash (103 in 55 balls for Brisbane Heat), was ruled out with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). In the final, the team may well need some power-hitting, with the West Indies Women likely to play as many as four slow bowlers.

The most experienced of them, Anisa, has struggled in this tournament. The only woman to take 100 T20 International wickets, she started the competition with 3 for 25 against Pakistan in Chennai. She has gone wicketless since. In the semifinal against New Zealand, she wasn’t called on after her first over of offspin went for ten, but remains a dangerous prospect.

The West Indies has certainly relied on its star allrounders. Taylor has scored 187 and taken eight wickets, while Dottin has chipped in with 111 runs and seven wickets. With Mohammed struggling for wickets, the other spinners have stepped up. Afy Fletcher has seven, at a superb economy-rate of 4.58, while Shaquana Quintyne has taken six.

The team has also been proactive when it comes to the batting order. After the six-run loss in the semifinal, Suzie Bates, New Zealand’s captain, spoke of how surprised she had been to see Cooper come in at No.3. She struck 61 from 48 balls to set up the game for the West Indies.

“In T20s, you have to be flexible,” said Taylor. “You only have 20 overs. Depending on what the situation is, you see which batter is suited for that. And I think that helped us in the last game. We needed somebody to give us a push, and [Cooper] did just that. Everyone would have been surprised. That was a fantastic knock by her.”

Her side will need more of the same in the final, against a team it has never beaten in eight previous matches in this format, including the last time the teams met in a bilateral series in Australia in late 2014. And with the two teams trading places at the top of the ICC Women's World Championship table over the past year in the lead up to the 50-over World Cup in 2017, the results here could add a new dimension to the rivalry.

Despite the many winners’ medals it has stashed away, there’s been no drop in Australia’s hunger or its knack of turning it on when most required.

“There’s no doubt that we like winning as a team,” said Lanning. “Each tournament is very different, so it’s hard to compare the last three to the build-up to this game. We’re a very competitive side and anything we do, we love to win and want to win. The hunger in the side is as good as it’s ever been, and we can’t wait to get out there and take on West Indies tomorrow.”

For the West Indies, who has got to this stage after three straight semifinal defeats – two of them to Australia (2012 and ’14) – the key is to not let the occasion get to it. “We’re very much excited,” said Taylor. “It’s the first final for us, and I know there are going to be some nerves around. We just have to embrace it, try to be calm and composed, and just go out there and fight for it.”

Australia (likely): Meg Lanning (capt), Elyse Villani, Alyssa Healy (wk), Alex Blackwell, Ellyse Perry, Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Erin Osborne, Megan Schutt, Kristen Beams, Rene Farrell.

West Indies (likely): Stafanie Taylor (capt), Hayley Matthews, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Stacy-Ann King, Merissa Aquilleira (wk), Shemaine Campbelle, Shaquana Quintyne, Afy Fletcher, Anisa Mohammed, Shamilia Connell.