West Indies Women and Australia face off in tomorrow’s semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20 Tournament with victory the only option for both. It makes for a tantalizing encounter.
West Indies Women have played unbeaten in the tournament, and have been imbued with the spirit and support of thousands of West Indian fans who have flocked to their games in unprecedented numbers in Guyana and St Lucia. More of the same is anticipated when they take to the field tomorrow afternoon in Antigua. Through its sudden flaring up at the back end of the group stage, the Women’s World T20 is now certifiably a blockbuster.
Tomorrow’s semifinal is a straight rematch of the 2016 final. Back then, Australia were the team coming into the final without any losses in the tournament. Tomorrow, West Indies will be that team, but barely. England gave them a scare and questions about their middle order that they’ll be grateful to have had time to think about. While it wasn’t as resounding as Australia’s 48-runs thrashing at the hands of India on Saturday, it was the wake-up call they needed.
Australia will be the better-rested team, heading into this fixture with six days of no cricket and time to re-energise in Guyana, which has been far more pleasant over the course of the tournament than rain-hit St. Lucia, where West Indies played all their games. They had some issues with their top and middle order against India, but will know their strength lies in the pace duo of Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt. Perry is three away from 100 wickets in T20Is, and 52 away from 1,000 runs.
There are many ways to view this contest, and in most of them, the best-case scenario for Australia depends on this question: how quickly can they dismiss West Indies’ engine room that is Hayley Matthews, Deandra Dottin, and Stafanie Taylor at the top of West Indies’ batting? These three fired together only once during the group stages against Sri Lanka and it resulted in their biggest score of the tournament of 187. Kycia Knight has also shown form during the tournament providing a number of important runs at critical stages.
Taylor is West Indies’ most prolific batter, but she’s not had a great year with the bat. The captain and No. 3 has one fifty in 12 innings in 2018, and has largely been a bowling all-rounder in this tournament based on her numbers. She has two ducks in four innings so far, and if West Indies ever needed her to step up, now is the time. They felt severe tremors when Matthews and Taylor fell in the space of three balls against England, and she’ll be keen to not only prevent that from happening but to join the openers among the runs.
West Indies have been rescued from shaky situations by their bowlers, spearheaded by Dottin, and some spectacular ground fielding and catching. If they can add a consistent batting performance tomorrow to these efforts they could bring broad smiles to the anticipated crowd of over 11 000 at the grounds and thousands watching from their televisions across the region. West Indies have made a change only once in this tournament, and that was right at the start against Bangladesh when they brought in Anisa Mohammed for Chinelle Henry. They don’t have injury worries and should field the same team as the England game.
Australia’s batting has centered around Alyssa Healy. She was Player of the Match in the first three matches and could have made a big difference at least to the start of Australia’s chase against India if she hadn’t suffered a concussion. The word from Australia’s camp is that she has been training during the break, which is an encouraging sign. Healy has recently emerged as one of Australia’s most consistent batters, and has got them off to quick starts routinely over the last two months or so. Should she be back to full fitness, Australia’s batting will hinge on whether she can keep her epic run of form going when the stakes are raised even higher.
Healy was in the nets in the lead-up to the game and should walk back into the team. They could also bring Georgia Wareham back in place of Tayla Vlaeminck, who made her debut against India.
The venue at North Sound hasn’t hosted a T20I in five years, but results in other formats suggest it will not be an easy pitch on which to make runs. India failed to chase 190 in a 50-over match last year, and Bangladesh lost a Test by an innings and 219 runs earlier this year.
Teams:West Indies women (possible XI): 1 Hayley Matthews 2 Deandra Dottin 3 Stafanie Taylor (capt) 4 Shemaine Campbelle 5 Natasha McLean 6 Britney Cooper 7 Kycia Knight (wk) 8 Chinelle Henry 9 Afy Fletcher 10 Shakera Selman 11 Shamilia Connell
Australia women: (possible XI): 1 Beth Mooney 2 Alyssa Healy (wk) 3 Meg Lanning (capt) 4 Ashleigh Gardner 5 Elyse Villani 6 Rachael Haynes 7 Ellyse Perry 8 Sophie Molineux 9 Delissa Kimmince 10 Georgia Wareham 11 Megan Schutt