Australia breezed past Mithali Raj & co. in the league stage, but isn't resting on its laurels.
Semi-final 2, Thursday, July 20
Australia v India, Derby
The first semi-final of ICC's 2017 Women’s World Cup between England and South Africa produced one of the images of the tournament when Jenny Gunn and Anya Shrubsole took the time to console Dane van Niekerk and her girls.
Despite the progress made by other teams in the tournament, Australia, the defending champion, and England, the host, remain the ones to beat. England proved that with its depth in that thrilling two-wicket win in Bristol. Now it is remains to be seen whether Australia will follow suit with a win over India in the second semi-final.
Aside from the passionate Australian fans, those that have a soft spot for the underdog would be desperately praying for India to break the hegemony.
On the field, Australia has a clear advantage over India. It won convincingly in the league game despite Poonam Raut’s century, and Mithali Raj’s 69 that made her the first batter to cross the 6,000-run mark.
The Australian batters have looked confident using their feet against Indian spinners in this tournament, and that showed in the way they chased down 227.
Alex Blackwell did not provide a clear answer when asked about Meg Lanning’s availability, but it is unlikely that the Australian captain, whose injured shoulder is under constant scrutiny, will sit out this big match. India doesn't have any injury issues, and would be feeling liberated after beating New Zealand by 186 runs to become the fourth team to qualify for the semi-finals.
It is India’s first semi-final appearance in any ICC event after the 2010 Women’s World Twenty20 where it had lost to Australia. Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Poonam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur remain from that game, and it will boil down to how the entire team deals with another pressure contest. It has crossed 260 twice in this tournament, but will need something in excess of 270 to give its spinners a real chance against Australia’s world-class batting unit.
India's dot-ball ratio is high as well, and the batters will have to rotate the strike and build a platform for a late-order onslaught. Australia loves to chase, but on a used surface in Derby, which doesn’t have the moisture that Bristol offered, it would not mind batting India out of the game if it wins the toss.
Players in focus
Ashleigh Gardner: She was one six away from becoming a national hero during Australia’s three-run defeat against England and is highly rated for both her batting and bowling abilities. She removed Smriti Mandhana early in the group stage game which allowed Australia to shackle Poonam Raut and Mithali Raj and the spin-friendly pitch at Derby would suit her strengths.
Harmanpreet Kaur: Her teammates say that she has a heart of a lion. She is known for delivering on the big stage and it is the first time she will be playing against Australia after making a splash for Sydney Thunder in the last Women’s Big Bash League. She is probably the Indian player who the Australians know the most about too and how she overcomes that familiarity could decide ultimately India’s fortune.
What they said
Alex Blackwell, Australia’s vice-captain: “We have had some great battles with India over the years and I certainly enjoy playing against the likes of Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj, players I have come up against many times. I think we are going to have a real contest on our hands tomorrow. And yeah, the fact that we beat them in the round-robin games is really promising. We know also that we can improve on the match that we played against them. I think there were some really great things that happened in that game. In particular, Nicole Bolton took on their spinners really well and was proactive and I think she has had a great tournament so far. Everyone has chipped in throughout so I think that's a good thing about our team; we haven't really relied on one or two players, it has been very much shared around."
Mithali Raj, India captain: “Every loss gives us an opportunity to reflect on what things we can do better in the next game. (In) tomorrow’s game we do have things, we will definitely look into those aspects that we could not do well on that day (against Australia). Tomorrow is that one game we need to pull off to get into the finals. Obviously, Australia is a very good side, defending champions, and a team that has been doing very well. To win against them (it) requires us to give more than we have been playing so far. The game against New Zealand, the team has been spot on (regarding) the plans that we had. But against Australia, it’s important to be the best that we can as players. If we have to (beat) the No. 1 side, you have to (outdo) them to be there.”
Australia: Meg Lanning (capt), Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
India: Mithali Raj (capt), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Mona Meshram, Nuzhat Parween, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Raut, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma (wk), Poonam Yadav.