ESPNcricinfo – West Indies have been the eternal bridesmaids at the Women’s World T20. Having failed to get past the semi-final stage in three previous attempts, they have a fourth chance at redemption when they take on Suzie Bates’ New Zealand, who are in rip-roaring form, having won all their group games with a touch of disdain.
West Indies received a wake-up call in the one-wicket loss to England that left the team shattered. But the manner in which they put the loss behind them and knocked India Women out in a high-pressure game in Mohali showed the team’s character. When in form, they are one of the more watchable teams – their batsmen can make the ridiculously long boundaries look short, their athleticism has the typical Caribbean punch and they celebrate like no other team. These skills will be put to test against a side whose road to the final four has had little to do with luck or accident.
New Zealand’s bowlers have adapted to the Indian conditions the best. A battery of spinners, led by Leigh Kasperek and Morna Nielsen, have weaved a web around batting units, giving a power-packed top order sub-par totals to gun down. West Indies, on the other hand, have had to make do with their plethora of medium-pacers, who have mastered the art of bowling cutters on pitches where the batsmen have had to force the pace.
While both teams are high on entertainment value, there has been a conscious change in plans. Stafanie Taylor, the West Indies captain, and Deandra Dottin, who has the reputation of being one of the biggest hitters in the women’s game, have suddenly transformed themselves to play the role of anchors, allowing others to bat around them. New Zealand, meanwhile, have banked on the belligerence of their captain Suzie Bates to give them a flier at the start, while Sophie Devine mans the middle order. No total looks defendable on a Wankhede deck these days, however, and this could push both teams to go back to their firebrand approach. The semi-final could thus boil down to a contest between two top-heavy batting sides.
In the spotlight
A three-run loss to Australia in the Women’s World Twenty20 final in 2010 was particularly gut-wrenching for Sophie Devine. Chasing a modest 107, Devine’s unbeaten 35-ball 38 after a top-order collapse gave New Zealand a shot at victory, only for the side to be pipped at the post. Six years on, Devine, who holds the record for the fastest fifty in women’s T20 cricket, has the opportunity to set things right and enhance New Zealand’s chances of the title win.
Hayley Matthews has been earmarked as the one to carry forward the batting legacy from Taylor and Dottin. But T20I figures of 174 runs in 17 innings at an average of 10.87 are not a reflection of why she is rated highly by her captain. Barring a knock of 41 against Bangladesh Women, she is yet to set the tournament on fire. A substantial score in a crunch game could go someway in erasing doubts in her own abilities as West Indies look to seal a spot in the final for the first time in the tournament’s history.
New Zealand have been unchanged for the last three games, but that has had more to do with the confidence within the group than conditions, considering they have played in Delhi, Mohali, Nagpur and Bangalore. Barring any injuries or an early morning sickness bug, they are likely to go in unchanged.
Kyshona Knight was summoned for the game against India, but failed in her only opportunity in the tournament. With the reserve batsmen also having failed, however, she may have another opportunity. Britney Cooper and Shemaine Campbelle could tussle for one spot, while there could also be a case for promoting the experienced Merissa Aguilleira a lot higher up the batting order.
Pitch and conditions
Judging by the tracks on which the teams have played in the tournament so far, the pitch at the Wankhede Stadium could be a belter, considering there is the semi-final clash between India and West Indies later in the evening. The heat and humidity that can go neck-to-neck in these parts of the world at this time of year could test the fitness of the players. Dew is unlikely to be a factor, so the toss may not have a great influence on the outcome.
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