England will be happy with how they performed in their first match of the Women’s T20 World Cup, but at the same time they will realise that there are tougher challenges ahead and it is only a small step on the way to their ultimate goal of winning the tournament.
The team were excellent in the field and deservedly restricted Bangladesh to 76/9 in their 20 overs. Anya Shrubsole and Natalie Sciver both took an early wicket and set the tone with accurate opening spells that put the batters under pressure immediately.
Heather Knight then threw the ball to two debutants, Linsey Smith and Kirstie Gordon, and both women were up to the task. Smith gave the batters no width and no bad balls to score off as she went for just eight runs in her first three overs. She was later rewarded with a wicket when she came back to bowl her final over.
But as good as Smith was, Gordon took the headlines. She combined superb control with an ability to vary her pace and flight which encouraged false shots. The left-arm spinner dismissed the highest scorer in the innings, Ayasha Rahman, and took two other wickets to end with very good figures of 3-16.
It was a great start to the international careers of both women, and England will hope their form continues throughout the tournament.However, there is no guarantee of that as their next opponents are South Africa and West Indies – the second and third strongest teams in the group.
South Africa start campaign in style and present significant challenge for England
South Africa were very impressive in their opening game. They reduced Sri Lanka to 5/2 after 3.2 overs and never let them get going. Shabnim Ismail earned three wickets and five other bowlers took one wicket apiece to restrict them to 99/8.
Sri Lanka entertained brief hopes of an unlikely victory when they removed openers Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt within the first two overs. However, Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk put on 67 to take the game away from them, and then Mignon du Preez added 16 from 16 balls to finish the chase with nine balls to spare.
After that comprehensive win, South Africa will be feeling confident ahead of their second game against the West Indies. If they win that too, they will surely fancy their chances of turning England over on Friday.
The key element of England v South Africa could be the opening batters on both sides. None of them have recorded a higher score than four yet, but at least three of them are capable of being highly destructive and taking the game away from the opposition.
For England, that means that Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont will have to negotiate the opening overs more effectively than they did against Bangladesh. Wyatt was perhaps a touch unlucky to receive a good first ball but she should have got forward to it, while Beaumont played a clumsy sweep.
It is worth pointing out that facing South Africa might suit both of them as they are used to starting off against pace bowlers. Moreover, Beaumont will have particularly good memories of the Proteas as she scored three hundreds against them during the English summer.
Lizelle Lee could be vital for South Africa against a team with the firepower of England. If the Three Lions set her side a big total to chase, the Proteas will probably need Lee to make a significant score – as she did during both their victories over England in June.
Australia live up to their tag as favourites; India also impress
Many pundits made Australia their favourites to win the Women’s T20 World Cup before it began. And, when you look back at their performances so far, it is easy to see why.
Opener Alyssa Healy has led the way with 157 runs in three matches and Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning and Rachael Haynes have all chipped in with scores so their batting looks in good order. With the ball, everyone has contributed and it is hard to see a weak anywhere in their line-up.
Thanks to three commanding wins, Australia have qualified for the semi-finals with a game to spare. However, they are yet to face their toughest opponents in Group B: India.
The Indians have been very good so far. They beat New Zealand and Pakistan and will probably seal their spot in the last four with victory over Ireland tomorrow. If they do, their match with Australia will decide who tops the group.
That match may be an important yardstick in determining which team is more likely to take home the trophy. Harmanpreet Kaur pummelled the Australian bowlers during a magnificent unbeaten 171 from 115 balls the last the sides met in a global event, and she did the same to New Zealand when she scored 103 from 51 balls in the opening game of this tournament.
Therefore, the Southern Stars will be determined to get her out early to avoid seeing such fireworks again. If they do, they will fancy their chances. But if they do not, they could find themselves on the losing side against India once again.