Apr 03, 2016 Sports
ESPNcricinfo – The grand finale of the 2016 Women’s World T20 is between two
contrasting sides – one that knows what it takes to win the cup and another for whom the stage is new territory. Australia, barring the mishap against New Zealand, have run roughshod over their opponents, while West Indies have played a brand of cricket that has been high on entertainment value, even if not always of the highest quality.
Irrespective of today’s result, that West Indies have finally managed to cross the semi-final barrier in their fifth attempt is a step in the right direction. But try telling that to Stafanie Taylor and her team, who are looking to upset Australia’s apple cart on the biggest stage of them all, having fallen short in each of their eight previous meetings. A rare opportunity of making it a treble of titles for West Indies at a global tournament this year, taking off from where the Under-19 boys left in February in Dhaka, should fire them up.
Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Merissa Aguilleira have been the torchbearers for West Indies since the tournament’s inception in 2009. Taylor has even been upfront about how their domestic structure lacks depth and they have had to make do with a limited talent pool. Considering those constraints, the team management would be delighted at having unearthed two potential players for the future in Hayley Matthews and Britney Cooper, who struck a crucial maiden half-century in the semi-final.
For Australia, the World T20 is simply a culmination of their summer that began with the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League that allowed a lot of their players the best possible match preparation leading into the tournament. A T20I series loss against India offered them an opportunity to rectify the creaking areas. While the top-order batsmen took their time to find their bearings on slow surfaces, disciplined batting efforts against Sri Lanka and Ireland, followed by a combined show of strength, spearheaded by Meg Lanning, the captain, against England in the semi-final, points to a
unit that is brimming with confidence.
While the batting of both sides has the X-factor that could take the surface out of the equation, Australia seem well rounded in the bowling department. Ellyse Perry, their spearhead, has not had a campaign to remember, but in Megan Schutt and Rene Farrell, they have pacers, whose incision upfront and variations at the death, have been tough to get away. In comparison, West Indies have relied often on Taylor and Dottin to bail them out, often with the ball too. How successful they are in dismantling the Lanning threat will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the final.
In the spotlight
Britney Cooper made her debut in 2009 and had played 44 T20Is without scoring a half-century. While being shunted up and down the batting order may have not helped, that she was presented with opportunities to play was not lost on anyone. In what was seen as a gamble, Cooper was promoted ahead of accomplished batsmen like Dottin and Aguilleira in the semi-final against a New Zealand side on a rampage. She repaid the faith with a 48-ball 61. More than the runs, the manner in which she accrued them showed why power-hitting is West Indies’ stronger suit.
That Australia are gunning for their fourth title is as much due to the efforts of Megan Schutt as it is because of Lanning. Three years ago, Schutt, just two ODIs old then, surprised many with her street-smart variations and subtle changes in length to play a key role in Australia’s World Cup triumph. Having been a constant since, she has stepped up every time Australia has needed her to; her vital scalps of Tammy Beaumont and Katherine Brunt subsided England’s challenge in a tense semi-final.
While most teams would prefer a horses-for-courses approach, both sides are unlikely to tinker with their winning combinations, considering they have bowlers of all kinds for what is largely expected to be a belter of a surface.
Pitch and conditions
The final will be the first women’s game on the Kolkata surface, but if the league stage of the men’s competition is a sample worth looking into, there will be turn on offer, although not to the extent that was seen in the game between India and Pakistan. A 2pm start takes the dew factor completely out of the equation, and the toss is unlikely to have that big an impact on the result.
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