India and South Africa, the two top-ranked sides at the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017, will figure in a high-profile match on the first day of the Super Six stage, as teams gear up for the business-end of the tournament from Wednesday.
Pakistan takes on Sri Lanka and Bangladesh plays Ireland in other matches on the opening day of the Super Six stage as teams compete to qualify for the top four places that will not only get them a place in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 to be held in England and Wales from 24 June to 23 July, but also in the ICC Women’s Championship.
World champion Australia, England, New Zealand and the West Indies have automatically qualified for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 by finishing in the top four of the ICC Women’s Championship (2014-16) which was decided with all eight teams playing each other in three ODIs.
Teams in the Super Six stage have carried points gained against other teams in the first round, and will play those qualified from the other group to decide the top four. India, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the sides favoured on rankings, form and past performances, with Bangladesh and Ireland left to pull out some surprise tricks if they have to upset calculations.
India, which is ranked fourth in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Rankings, has a challenging match upfront since it had lost 2-1 to sixth-ranked South Africa at home in their ICC Women’s Championship series in November 2014 and also in a practice game ahead of this tournament.
However, captain Mithali Raj is welcoming the biggest contest early on after comprehensive wins against Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Thailand in the preliminary league. She exuded confidence on her batting line-up and the Ekta Bisht-led spin attack, especially since the team is playing two of its matches at the P. Sara Oval where it has acclimatised well with three preliminary games and the practice game.
India captain Mithali Raj: “We have to play South Africa in the Super Six whether in the beginning or the last or the middle, so it doesn’t really matter. In fact, that we are playing them in the first game is good in a way. The match against Pakistan (on 19 February) too is going to be competitive and we are looking forward to the upcoming matches.”
South Africa has won all its matches - against Pakistan, Bangladesh, Scotland and Papua New Guinea, and captain Dane van Niekerk says the team has only been concentrating on its own performances.
South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk: “To be honest, we’ve not been following the performances of teams from the other group. We’ve been trying to concentrate as much as we can on our own performances. I’m sure they’re doing really well, but at the end we’re here to compete. We’re at the business-end of the tournament and we really want to work hard.”
In the other matches on Wednesday, Sana Mir-led Pakistan will hold a definite edge over Sri Lanka with a more solid batting line-up consisting of the likes of Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan and Nain Abidi while the match between Ireland and Bangladesh can be expected to be more even.
Pakistan captain Sana Mir: “We have had some notable individual performances. As far as I’m concerned, it’s very important that we produce a team performance in batting and bowling. We’ve seen one or two bowlers doing well, but we have to have all five bowlers bowling in the right areas. All the top batters too need to take responsibility.”
Sri Lanka captain Inoka Ranaweera: “We have played well in the last few matches and that is how we are in the Super Six. Our aim now is to do well in these matches by concentrating and working hard, especially on our batting. Pakistan is not an easy opponent but we want to rectify whatever mistakes we have done in the past so that we can do well against them.”
As for South Africa, its confidence would also be up because of the individual performances, which reflect in the latest MRF Tyres ICC ODI Player Rankings for Women which take into account matches featuring teams with ODI status and are thus classified as ODIs. The ones featuring Zimbabwe, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Thailand don’t figure in that because these teams do not have ODI status.
South Africa captain van Niekerk has herself gained two slots in the batting rankings to go up to 12th slot and up two places to 15th among bowlers with her leg-spin in the rankings released on Tuesday. All-rounder Chloe Tryon’s knock of 79 against Pakistan has contributed towards her rise of 13 places to 23rd rank among batters while Marizanne Kapp has gained two places to reach 22nd rank.
Others to gain among batters include India captain Mithali Raj (up one place to second), Bangladesh captain Rumana Ahmed (up four places to 31st), Pakistan’s Nain Abidi (up two places to 26th) and the India opening pair of Deepti Sharma (up 17 places to 38th) and Thirush Kamini (up 11 places to 41st), who have both reached career-best rankings.
Sana Mir has gained two slots to go up to seventh among bowlers while India’s left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht (up three places to 11th), South Africa leg-spinner Suun Luus (up six places to 28th), Rumana Ahmed (up four places to 29th) and Sri Lanka captain Inoka Ranaweera (up five places to 33rd) have all attained career-best rankings.
South Africa v India at P. Sara Stadium (to be live-streamed at icc-cricket.com)
Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Nondescripts Cricket Club
Bangladesh v Ireland at Colombo Cricket Club
MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Rankings (as on 14 February)
Rank Team Points
1. Australia 129
2. England 122
3. New Zealand 118
4. India 109
5. West Indies 108
6. South Africa 91
7. Pakistan 77
8. Sri Lanka 66
9. Bangladesh 41
10. Ireland 37
(Developed by David Kendix)