The ICC Women’s Championship has a clear leader in world champion Australia after an exciting month of one-day cricket, which featured seven of the eight sides in the competition.
Australia, which will be aiming for its fourth straight ICC Women’s World Twenty20 title in India later this month, entered the latest round of matches as Championship co-leaders with the West Indies.
But two series wins against India and New Zealand have helped it to break-away from the Caribbean side, which is now trailing by four points.
Australia beat India and New Zealand by an identical 2-1 margin to earn eight out of a possible 12 points on offer. Meg Lannings’s side came from a match down to beat New Zealand and retain the Rose bowl title for the 14th time.
Australia now have two rounds of matches remaining, which will be again South Africa and Sri Lanka.
West Indies, meanwhile, have secured second position with a 2-1 win over South Africa. The Caribbean side’s remaining two series are against fifth-placed India and sixth-placed England.
The Proteas hold on to fourth spot in the Championship table despite losing both outings against England and the West Indies.
The significance of the ICC Women’s Championship lies in the fact that it is a qualifying tournament for the ICC Women’s World Cup July 2017. The top four sides from the ICC Women’s Championship will obtain automatic qualification for the event proper to be staged in England, while the bottom four sides will get a final chance of qualification through the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier earlier in 2017.
Leaders Australia seem certain to make the cut for qualification, along with the West Indies. The bottom two sides Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in contrast, will have to run a very tough race if they want to move back in contention. In the middle of the table, New Zealand, South Africa, England and India are neck and neck in a battle for the other two World Cup qualification spots.
Sixth-placed England have three games in hand, giving it the upper hand as well as a very strong chance to finish inside the top four. England’s next three rounds will feature contests against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies.
India, meanwhile, were impressive against Australia, pulling one game back against the top-ranked side in an away series. This was followed by a three-nil series win against Sri Lanka at home, allowing the Asian team to move up the rankings from seventh to fifth. Nevertheless, India are still not assured of a World Cup qualification.
India will need to win both their final two rounds against the West Indies and Pakistan to put pressure on the other leading contenders.
Individual player performances have been in keeping with team performances, as Australia’s Meg Lanning leads the run-scorers table with 920 runs, including four centuries and four half-tons. Lanning has played in all of Australia’s 15 matches so far, and averages an impressive 70.
Suzie Bates of New Zealand is third with 686 runs, while Chamari Atapattu is Sri Lanka’s best performer in sixth place with 493 runs. India’s teenager Smriti Mandhana is her side’s leading run-getter with 438 runs in 13 matches.
Australia’s spinner Jess Jonassen is the leading wicket-taker in the championship to date with an impressive haul of 25 wickets at an average of 17.
Anisa Mohammed of the West Indies, Shabnim Ismail of South Africa and Heather Knight are not far behind with 24, 22 and 20 wickets, respectively.
Australia’s dominance in the ICC Women’s Championship is also reflected in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Women’s Player rankings, with Australian captain Meg Lanning holding on to her number-one spot in the women’s batting rankings.
Bates has retained her second position, while India captain Mithali Raj is in third. West Indies skipper Stafanie Taylor is in fifth, while England captain Charlotte Edwards is in seventh. South African Trisha Chetty and West Indies’ Deandra Dottin have both edged their way into the top 10. This is a career-best ranking for Chetty, who has scored an impressive 482 runs in the championship to date.
A look at some selected rankings shows South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp has moved up two spots to 23rd, Jessica Cameron and Smriti Mandhana have gained one spot each to rise to 21 and 22 respectively. Shemaine Campbelle of the West Indies has had an impressive eight spots jump to land at 38th.
Amongst the bowlers, India’s Jhulan Goswami has held her number-one position. Katherine Brunt of England has moved up two spots to third, Ellyse Perry is up a place to fifth, while West Indies skipper Stafanie Taylor has dropped three positions moving to sixth.
Marizanne Kapp who has taken 16 wickets in the Championship to date, has moved up three spots to 14th, while Hayley Matthews of the West Indies, who has 15 Championship wickets so far, has been rewarded with a six-spot jump to 41st.
The ICC Women’s Championship is back in action in June when Pakistan will travel to England and South Africa will host New Zealand.