Many of the biggest stars in the world game will take to the field at Newlands in Cape Town on Thursday for the first semi-final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023.
Australia versus India is a repeat of the final of this competition three years ago, which the Aussies won in front of a packed MCG.
But India have improved since then, and were the last team to beat Australia – via a Super Over in the T20I series loss back in December.
That defeat is one of just three that the world’s top-ranked side have suffered in competitive T20 internationals since that famous day in Melbourne, with New Zealand inflicting the other two.
And if India are to take that tally up to four and progress to a World Cup final meeting with either England or South Africa, then there are some key battles that will have to go their way.
The Openers vs Schutt and Brown
India have plenty of quality in their batting ranks, but a strong start and wickets in hand are key to beating Australia, so Shafali Verma and Smriti Mandhana’s displays will be vital.
The pair put on a brilliant 76-run opening stand in that win in December, with Mandhana also bashing 13 runs off the three balls she faced in the Super Over.
And how they handle Megan Schutt and Darcie Brown may well define the game.
Schutt has been a particular threat with the new ball through this tournament, removing both of New Zealand’s openers in the first over of Australia’s opening group game.
While Brown’s electric pace is always something to be wary of – as India found out during the tournament’s warm-up fixture, when the teenager rattled through the top order with three Powerplay wickets, including both Verma and Mandhana.
Renuka Thakur vs Australia’s top order
It’s not just Australia who have a threat with the new ball in this game.
Renuka Thakur has been getting some handy movement out of the South African surfaces in this tournament, and has shown the ability to get top-class batters out in just the last few days.
Her wonderful 5/15 against England saw her pick up the wicket of one of England’s dangerous top three in each of her three overs in the Powerplay.
Australia’s top order have been doing some “heavy lifting” for the side this tournament, according to Alana King, and it would be fascinating to see how the Aussie middle order coped with being exposed early in such a big match.
Richa Ghosh vs Australia’s spinners
One of the tournament’s form batters has been Indian wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh. Fresh from helping the India U19s win their World Cup just last month, Ghosh has carried her form into the senior tournament.
She has been dismissed just once in four innings, amassing 122 runs at a very healthy strike rate in excess of 140.
And it was Ghosh who took the game to the Super Over back in December with some terrific late hitting.
With spin playing such a large part at this tournament, particularly through the middle overs, it will come down to the likes of Ghosh to attack Australia in that phase of the game.
Death Bowlers vs McGrath and Harris
One of the difficulties with playing Australia is that the quality batters just keep on coming.
Tahlia McGrath is the world’s top-ranked T20I batter, but has come in as low as seven in this tournament, highlighting the outrageous strength-in-depth that the defending champions possess.
Joining McGrath in that powerful middle order is Grace Harris, who has an outrageous career strike rate of 176.11 across her 31 T20Is.
Should India push Australia all the way, then controlling those late hitters at the back-end of the innings, or ideally removing them before they can do damage, will be crucial.