Women’s World Cup: India, looking to get closer to the semi-finals, will face a tough duel with a struggling England

In 2017, India’s World Cup hopes collapsed against England. At Lord’s Picnic in London, Mithali Raj’s side lost a hard-fought final to the then hosts. Five years later, India have a chance to end Heather Knight’s side’s title defense as they battle to hit the bull’s eye at the 2022 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.

India can move closer to the semi-finals if they manage to beat England when the two sides meet at Mount Maunganui on Wednesday.

With confidence running high after an impressive win against the West Indies, India would be looking for some much-needed consistency with the racquet to peak at the right time in the flagship event.

India, currently third after a morale-boosting 155 run against the West Indies, will want to continue their winning streak and maintain their place in the top four, especially when taking on leaders Australia after England.

After an inexplicably slow performance against New Zealand when the Indian batters played 162 point balls, Smriti Mandhana (123 of 119) and Harmanpreet Kaur (109 of 107) put on a great batting performance, beating two centuries against the West Indies to power India bring their highest total (317/8) in the history of the flagship event.

Both openers – Mandhana and Yastika Bhatia – showed intent from the start, something coach Romesh Powar emphasized before the game.

Mandhana played a fluid 123 run knock while Kaur continued her good run, scoring her fourth tonne and first since failing to hit the famous 171 against Australia at the 2017 World Cup.

The duo will be eager to continue in the race for semi-final spots.

INDIA EYE CONSISTENCY

Vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur said India will not rest on their laurels but will focus on improving consistency as they near the business end of the league phase.

“I think it’s very important for us how we played in the last game. We just have to keep doing that instead of thinking about what your negative points are and what your positive points are,” she said on the eve of the game against England.

However, the all-rounder Deepti Sharma, who has been promoted to the top, has to do more with the club, as does skipper Mithali Raj, who recently also got out of control.

India also has good all-rounders in Sneh Rana and Puja Vastrakar, who have so far delivered with both ball and racket.

The bowling facility, which seemed to be a cause for concern ahead of the World Cup, has so far delivered for the team.

While pacesetters Meghna Singh, Pooja Vastrakar and Jhulan Goswami are doing a decent job, the bulk of the wickets have been shared between the spinners – Rajeshwari Gayakwad (7), who is third on the list of the tournament’s leading wicket-takers, and Sneh Rana ( 5 gates).

CAN ENGLAND RETURN?

On the other hand, England’s title defense got off to a disastrous start as they are rooted in 7th place in the 8-team points table. Their inability to finish games in the last few minutes has cost the defending champions dearly.

Opener Tammy Beaumont remains her star with the bat, while spinner Sophie Ecclestone and four-scalp all-rounder Nat Scriver are the team’s leading wicket-takers.

England are keen to avoid an early exit and will be looking to do their best against an Indian side who are slowly but surely gaining confidence.

SQUAD

India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Harmanpreet Kaur, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Rich Ghosh (wk), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Sneh Rana, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Jhulan Goswami , Renuka Singh.

England: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Amy Jones, Emma Lamb, Nat Sciver), Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt . (With PTI inputs)

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