Buoyed by the comprehensive 105-run victory in their Group A opener against the West Indies, hosts India go with their tails up against jittery defending champions England in a crucial league game of the ICC Women’s World Cup at the Brabourne Stadium here on Sunday.
Everything fell in place for the Mithali Raj-led home team as they totally outplayed their counterparts from the Caribbean islands two days ago to register a thumping victory at the same venue to log two points.
A record opening wicket stand of 175 between India’s first-ever World Cup centurion Murugesan Tirushkamini and Poonam Raut set up a huge total for the hosts to defend in style under lights, a day before Sri Lanka sent a shockwave by upsetting the apple cart of England with a last-ball, one-wicket win.
England, led by five-time Cupper Charlotte Edwards, are under tremendous pressure to save their stuttering campaign as a loss to India would almost certainly spell curtains for their hopes of winning back-to-back titles in the most important tournament for women.
The three-time winners and India have fought close bilateral rubbers in recent times with the latter winning 3-2 at home in 2009-10 and England winning the last rubber in their backyard by a similar margin after coming from 0-2 down.
In between England won a one-off game at Derby. But the way Lanka played and notched their first-ever win over England in nine ODIs, it must have given Mithali Raj’s team a tremendous mental boost.
Putting more pressure on the 2009 Cup winners ahead of the game, Mithali today termed England’s bowling as “weak“.
“I think England has a good batting side, but their bowling is weak. They depend on Katherine Brunt a lot. Last year we played England and our batters are comfortable playing their bowlers. We are well prepared,” said the India captain.
Edwards said, “If we don’t win, it is going to be very hard to make it to the super six.”
As per the format, one team from the group is eliminated and a loss to India will dent England’s hopes further if the West Indies beat Sri Lanka in the other game to be held concurrently at the MIG Club in Bandra.
“India played well yesterday and Sunday is a different day. We got to back ourselves, we have done well in the past against them and hopefully we can do that again,” said the England captain on a more optimistic note.
Apart from Tirushkamini, who made 100 off 146 balls, and Poonam (72 off 94 balls), seasoned campaigner and former captain Jhulan Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur smashed quick-fire 30s to help India build on the strong foundation laid by the openers against the West Indies.
A similarly strong batting performance cannot be ruled out against England whose bowling, barring spearhead Brunt who is the highest ranked bowler in the world, was disappointing against Sri Lanka.
Jhulan also impressed with her economical stint with the ball, along with Amita Sharma, while medium pacer Niranjana Nagarajan and experienced spinner Gouher Sultana shared five wickets in the comfortable win over the West Indies.
England have better batters, as was shown by their recovery from a difficult 29 for 3 to post 238 for 8 against the Lankans and the Indian bowlers will have to be on their toes.
England, surprisingly, dropped vital catches, including one off Lanka’s match winner Kaushalya Lokusooriya when she was on 9 and would certainly aim to improve on this count.
“We had a decent score and we let it slip in the end with a couple of dropped catches,” said Edwards yesterday.
Edwards also hoped that her team’s top wicket-keeper batswoman Sarah Taylor is fit for the game. The 23-year-old player missed the match against Sri Lanka due to a hamstring injury.
England: Charlotte Edwards (captain), Jenny Gunn (vice-captain), Tammy Beaumont, Arran Brindle, Katherine Brunt, Holly Colvin, Georgia Elwiss, Lydia Greenway, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Danielle Wyatt.
India: Mithali Raj (captain), Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Ekta Bisht, Amita Dass, Jhulan Goswami, Karuna Jain, Reema Malhotra, Mona Meshram, Thirushkamini Murugesan, Sulakshana Naik, Niranjan Nagarajan, Rasnara Parwin, Poonam Raut, Shubh Lakshmi Sharma, Gouher Sultana.
Keywords: ICC Women’s World Cup