The group stages of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup came to an end on Tuesday, with the final match being washed out. But before rain played spoilsport, the group games produced several memorable performances.
From Poonam Yadav’s flighted leg-spin bamboozling defending champions Australia on the first day to Thailand coming good on the rain-curtailed final day, the group stage was lit up by several standout performers, lighting up the second straight standalone T20 World Cup with astonishing, sparkling and gritty performances.
The four semi-finalists were decided before the final day of matches, with India being the first to qualify with their unbeaten run in Group A. Australia, the other semi-finalists from group A, made it on the final day with a win over New Zealand. In Group B, South Africa were the first to qualify with their unbeaten start, which included a win over England, the other semi-finalists from the group.
Before the semi-finals on Thursday, a double header to decide which two teams clash at the iconic MCG on the final coinciding with International Women’s Day on Sunday, here’s a look at the top performances from the group stage.
Poonam Yadav’s phenomenal start
It would not be an understatement to say that Poonam Yadav got this T20 World Cup off to as exciting a start as possible.
With hosts and defending champions Australia taking on India, it was expected to be a close match. But close to the halfway mark, Australia looked comfortably placed at 58/2 chasing 133 with last edition’s Player of the Tournament Alyssa Healy leading the way with a superb fifty.
But Yadav’s leg-spinning masterclass saw India complete an unlikely turnaround and set the tone for the team’s unbeaten surge. The 28-year-old is India’s most successful bowler in women’s T20Is and she showed exactly why in a successful comeback from a finger fracture.
After being hit for a six, she bounced back with a return catch to send back Healy and in her next over, broke the back of the Australian innings. First, she deceived Rachael Haynes with a googly Bhatia and then Ellyse Perry was bowled on a duck on the next ball.
Yadav was inches from a hat-trick when Bhatia dropped an edge from Jess Jonassen but she got Jonassen as her fourth wicket soon enough. A Yadav-inspired India took all 10 wickets of the storied Australian batting lineup and made themselves genuine contenders right at the outset.
Lizelle Lee at her brutal best
South Africa opener Lizelle Lee is one of the most destructive batters in the women’s game and has scored centuries in two of the biggest women’s T20I leagues – Women’s Big Bash League and Kia Super League. But she was yet to reach the three-figure mark in international cricket. In fact, she was coming off a poor run of form without a half-century in nine international innings.
But she turned it around in style, scoring a 59-ball ton against Thailand, the fifth ton in the history of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. She was at her brutal best with 88 of her 101 runs coming in boundaries. The big-hitter can find the boundary with ease and she showed her prowess with powerful strikes against the relatively sharp Thai attack. Her ton saw South Africa to a tournament record total of 195/3 and a 113-run win.
Heather Knight’s new record
The first century of this edition was struck by England captain Heather Knight, who scripted a new record for women’s cricket in the process. The 29-year-old is the first woman to score a hundred in all three formats of the game. There are a very few women who can stake a claim to a record like this, given how Tests have all but disappeared and it was good to see the box ticked.
She blasted 108 from 66 balls , also against Thailand, to seal record-breaking 98-run victory. Knight picked up from where she had left off in the tri-series extending her remarkable record at Manuka Oval. All four of her T20I 50+ scores have come at the Canberra stadium, the most of any woman at a single venue in the format.
England’s total of 176/2 was also their highest T20I total and Knight’s unbeaten third-wicket stand of 169 with Nat Sciver was the highest partnership for any wicket in Women’s T20 World Cup history.
Bangladesh gives New Zealand a mighty scare
New Zealand missed out on a semi-final spot again after losing the straight shoot-out to Australia, the third straight ICC tournament where they have exited in the group stages. But even before they reached the virtual quarter-final, they suffered a huge scare when they were skittled for 91 against Bangladesh.
The White Ferns have the world top two T20I batters in Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates and a formidable batting order to back them. In the two close matches they lost to India and Australia, even their lower order got them close to the target.
But against qualifiers Bangladesh, they crumbled from 66/2 to 91 all out with Ritu Moni taking a stunning 4/17. It was only the third time the White Ferns had been kept under 100 runs at a World Cup but they managed to seal a 17-run win. The pacer took the wickets of Bates, along with Katey Martin, Amelia Kerr and Anna Petersen in single digits.
Had Bangladesh managed the win, it would have been perhaps the biggest upset of this World Cup.
Thailand make mark in final league game
Marking their debut at a World Cup stage, Thailand were at the receiving end of the tournament’s two centuries and had failed to cross 85 while batting.
But in their final group game, their batting clicked together to posted their highest T20 International score with a superb 150/3 against Pakistan. Natthakan Chantam and Nattaya Boochatham posted the second-highest opening partnership of the tournament, 93, before Boochatham fell for 44.
But Chantam made a 50-ball 56 with some delightful hitting against a good Pakistan attack. The neat ball-striking from the Thai players impressed Ian Bishop as well. Some late big-hitting from Nannapat Khoncharoenkai and Chanida Sutthiruang ensuring Thailand passed their previous record of 133/8 recorded against the Netherlands last year.
The innings just added to the cheer Thailand have added to the tournament, with their smiles, bowed hand gestures and gifts for opposition team skippers.
Honourable mention: Siriwardena shines on swansong
Shashikala Siriwardena made the final match of hr 17-year-long career for Sri Lanka memorable with tournament-best figures of 4/16 against Bangladesh. It felt like a fitting farewell for the former captain as Sri Lanka ended their campaign with a win.
Bonus: Here’s how the Indian cricket team marked Siriwardena’s farewell