England are starting to play well enough to win the 2020 edition of the Women’s T20 World Cup, but they may find their path to glory blocked by the most un-Australian foe imaginable: rain.
The weather forecast for Sydney on Thursday is awful. There is a higher than 50% chance of rain every hour between 11am and 10pm local time and, during the hours when England’s semi-final is due to take place, that chance increases to over 65%.
Therefore, unless there is a change in the weather systems within the next 48 hours, the prospects of any play in either semi-final look bleak.
Of course, none of this would matter if the ICC had scheduled a reserve day for the matches. Stupidly, they have not done that, so the most likely outcome is that the two group winners, India and South Africa, will advance to Sunday’s showpiece final at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground.
If the weather is kind – or the ICC change the rules and allow the semi-finals to take place the next day (when the forecast predicts bright sunshine throughout) – then England should feel confident about their chances for the following reasons:
England have world-class batters in formEmbed from Getty Images
Two of England’s batters – Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight – have been outstanding so far at the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup.
Sciver is the leading run-scorer at the tournament. She has scored 202 runs in four innings and she has been vital in every match.
The secret to the all-rounder’s consistency is her temperament. While others around her plays rash shots and wickets fall at the other end, she remains calm and accumulates runs in sensible, low-risk ways.
This composure enabled Sciver to guide England to competitive scores against South Africa and West Indies that almost certainly would have been impossible without her. It could also be a critical asset to her team if they find themselves in a tense chase in the semi-final or final.
England also boast the second-highest run-scorer at the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup: Heather Knight.
The Three Lions captain led by example when she smashed a fantastic 108 off 66 balls against Thailand followed by 62 off 47 against Pakistan. If she produces another big innings or two, she could lift the T20 World Cup trophy on Sunday.
England have a brilliant bowling line-upEmbed from Getty Images
England’s bowlers are performing superbly at 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup. Led by star spinner Sophie Ecclestone, they have produced four collective displays of the highest quality.
Ecclestone has been at the heart of everything. She took 2-19 as the bowlers almost defended the batters’ inadequate total of 123-8 against South Africa.
Then she gave Thailand absolutely nothing during four overs that went for just 11 runs. She also dismissed their best batter: Nattakan Chantam.
By the third game, Ecclestone’s rhythm was irresistible. In tandem with young leg-spinner Sarah Glenn, she strangled the life out of Pakistan’s run chase as she grabbed 2-12.
In that game, Glenn arguably stole the limelight as she dismissed three of the top six to finish with outstanding figures of 3-15. However, the control provided by Ecclestone arguably enabled such a display.
Ecclestone starred again in the final group game. She paralysed the West Indies with her accurate left-arm spin and finished with the enviable figures of 3-7 in 3.1 overs.
These performances are no fluke. Ecclestone is currently third in the ICC T20I bowling rankings and she is the highest-ranked spinner on the list. This demonstrates her consistency over a long period of time, so England have every reason to expect her excellence to continue for the remainder of the T20 World Cup.
Glenn has also been outstanding in her first World Cup. She has bowled well in every match and has deservedly taken six wickets. She and Ecclestone also make up the most economical spin-bowling partnership at the tournament so far.
As if that was not already enough, England’s best seamer Anya Shrubsole looks to be in good form. She bowled well and grabbed eight wickets during the group stages of the T20 World Cup.
With the other bowlers, the signs are mixed. Katherine Brunt seems to be struggling, Sciver has been steady but unspectacular, and Mady Villiers looks like a good option if England opt for a third spinner again.
England have other potential starsEmbed from Getty Images
While five players have stood out in England’s matches so far, there are others who could shine in what is left of the tournament.
The first, and most obvious, is Danni Wyatt. She is a proven match-winner and, if she makes a big score at a rapid pace (which is her trademark), England almost always win.
Encouragingly for the Three Lions, Wyatt batted better against the West Indies than in previous matches, so perhaps a star performance is just around the corner.
Tammy Beaumont can also do something special. In June 2018, she pulverised the South African bowling attack during a remarkable innings of 116 from 52 balls. She has never hit the same heights since, but the capability remains, and England should persist with her as opener.
While England’s other batters might be less likely to produce extraordinary performances, they can still make vital contributions. Amy Jones is an excellent wicketkeeper and can provide middle-order firepower, while Fran Wilson can score important middle-order runs and she is an outstanding fielder.
In terms of the bowlers, Brunt is coming to the end of her career, but she might still have a big performance within her, while youngsters Villiers and Freya Davies could come in and make a name for themselves. England are not short of talent.