Comebacks is the theme in West Indies’ ODI series decider against the visiting Indian team tomorrow. The home team’s vice-captain Hayley Matthews is back after serving her eight-match across-formats suspension for an undisclosed breach of CWI Player Code of Conduct.
On the other hand, India welcome back ace opener Smriti Mandhana, who spent last five ODIs on the sidelines due to a toe fracture she picked up last month in training. With points, and the series, on the line, both mainstays would likely walk straight into their respective playing XIs for the third and final ODI in Antigua.
Spinners have had their fun in both the day-night games thus far. India faltered in the chase of 225 in the series opener with an out-of-form Anisa Mohammed returning a five-for on her way to becoming the first spinner to 150 wickets in women’s ODIs.
India’s spinners returned the favour in the following game, turning the game on its head as the hosts slipped from 78 for 1 to 138 all out in their chase of 192, to level the series. Not a lot should change from that narrative, but the series decider is a day game unlike the first two.
The welcome relief for the home team is that the batting no longer seems to be solely dependent on Stafanie Taylor, with notable contributions coming from Natasha McLean, Chedean Nation and wicketkeeper-bat Shemaine Campbelle as well across the two games. Matthews’ return at the top should also add to the batting depth.
If McLean has recovered from the injury that forced her to retire hurt in Game 2, Stacy Ann-King’s lean patch in both departments could possibly see her sitting out of the decider.
For India, Harmanpreet Kaur’s consistency is a welcome change but a major concern is also at the top with runs not coming at an ideal pace. Mandhana’s return, therefore, seems definite. But with her return, Priya Punia, who came in as a replacement since the left-hander picked up a toe fracture, will have to make way despite not putting a foot wrong in the limited chances she’s been afforded.
The extra motivation for India, if needed at all, would be the fact that this could likely be their last Championship game given the uncertainty over their series against Pakistan for second successive cycle. If, like the last time, India are to concede those six points again, the game in Antigua is their last shot at collecting points and securing a top-half finish (or in the top-five if New Zealand move into the top-four).
Spinners have been effective on the Antigua pitch in both the games thus far, a trend likely to continue in the series decider as well. It’s a day game this time, and aside from some clouds, the weather is likely to remain clear for the match.
Squads: West Indies women:
Shemaine Campbelle (wk), Kyshona Knight, Anisa Mohammed, Stafanie Taylor (c),
Natasha McLean, Stacy-Ann King,
Afy Fletcher, Chedean Nation, Sheneta Grimmond, Shabika Gajnabi, Aaliyah Alleyne, Hayley Matthews, Britney Cooper,
India women: Mithali Raj (c),
Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur,
Punam Raut, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Taniya Bhatia (wk),
Priya Punia, Ekta Bisht, Smriti Mandhana, Sushma Verma, Mansi Joshi, D Hemalatha (Cricbuzz)