The last time India met England at an ICC event, it was perhaps among the biggest matches for women’s cricket. In the dramatic 2017 World Cup final, India fell short by an agonising nine runs, but their run to the title clash kick-started quite the visibility revolution for the game.
The ICC Women’s World T20 semi-final on Thursday (Friday 5.30 am IST) will see a rematch of that dramatic final.
But the last time India met England in a Twenty20 International, Harmanpreet Kaur’s team won by a comfortable margin of eight wickets. India’s spinners choked England to bowl them out for 107, which was then chased with the aid of a Smriti Mandhana special.
Of course, the Indian team had lost by seven wickets just four days prior as they failed to defend a massive score of 198 against a rampaging Danielle Wyatt, who scored 124 off only 64 balls.
The record run-fest, though, tells a more accurate version of India’s record against England in the shortest format of the game. England have a dominant streak of 10-3 against India in this format, even though it was India who won the first match they played (just the third Women’s T20I, back in August 2006).
But at the ongoing World T20, it is India who head into the semi-final with momentum on their side.
Harmanpreet and company not only finished the group stage unbeaten with wins over New Zealand and Australia, but had also beaten England in their warm-up match two weeks ago, with the captain stroking 62 runs off just 32 balls.
England, on the other hand, went down to defending champions West Indies in a last-over thriller after two dominant seven-wicket wins and one washed out match. As the match against the hosts showed, Heather Knight’s team have not really had much opportunity to click together as a team.
The bowlers, led by World Cup hero Anya Shrubsole, have been largely effective, restricting Bangladesh and South Africa to under 100 runs. However, the batters have not been able to get big scores on a generally low-scoring track in St Lucia.
Batting first, the 115/8 against West Indies has been England’s highest score so far and their highest run-getter is Amy Jones, with 50 runs in three matches. But the bigger concerns for them is the indifferent form of destructive opener Danielle Wyatt (1, 0 and 27 in 3 games) and the limited time spent in the middle by the middle order, especially skipper Heather Knight (31 in three games).
The under-cooked English batting is in sharp contrast to the Indians, who have been consistently among the runs in high-scoring Guyana (194/5 vs New Zealand, 137/3 chasing vs Pakistan, 145/6 vs Ireland and 167/8 vs Australia). Captain Harmanpreet, who began the tournament with a bang, scoring 103 off 51 balls in the opener, leads the tournament run-chart with 167 runs from four games.
In the bowling department, India have employed a spin attack with just the one pacer, while England have relied on their their seam duo of Anya Shrubsole (7 wickets) and Natalie Sciver (4 wickets).
The knock-out match will place both teams in unfamiliar conditions at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua and Barbuda. India will also play their first day/night match. This could mean a blank slate when it comes to form. However, momentum and morale will still be with India.
Catalyst for change, not revenge
A large part of the narrative before the semi-final is centred around the word “revenge” for the 50-over World Cup final loss. For all the talk of revenge, few factors are the same as fifteen months ago. Yes, Shrubsole is leading the attack and Harmanpreet, Smriti Mandhana and Mithali Raj still shoulder India’s batting. Both England and India are different teams now, younger and more aggressive, befitting the shortest format.
However, India are also more experienced now, and nerves won’t play as big a part as they did back at Lord’s, even taking into account that it is the semi-final of a World Cup. Harmanpreet Kaur’s team is a more capable, composed team at the moment, one that appears to be growing in confidence.
The 2017 World Cup win was a catalyst for a young England team, who were in transition since the 2016 World T20 loss. This transition and subsequent change, and not revenge, is what is at stake for this young Indian team. On an eight-match winning streak under new coach Ramesh Powar, India will back themselves up to edge out England to reach the final – their first at a World T20.