Date – Sunday, 8th March 2020
Time – 7 pm (Local Time), 12:30 pm (IST)
Venue – Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
After a Thursday full of Sydney rain, drama, and heartbreaks, we have the two teams who will take center stage on the International Women’s Day at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground. India was granted free passage to the finals after their semi-final match against England was rained off owing to them finishing on top in their group, much to the dismay of English captain, Heather Knight. Australia was also looking towards the heavens for the rains to cede as their fate also depended on the weather. However, the rain gods were kinder to the hosts as they were given the much-needed respite to complete the overs necessary to win the contest and make the result count.
The result of Thursday’s semi-finals meant that the host and pre-tournament favorites Australia will be slugging it out all over again against the emerging challengers India to win the coveted trophy. The contest is reported to be the most widely publicized event in women’s sporting history with a record of more than 90,000 spectators on the ground and millions of viewers across the world. With two of the strongest teams of the tournament competing for glory, it is a fitting end to what has been an excellent and closely-fought tournament lasting two weeks.
Road to the Final
With 4 wins out of 4, India was the only team with the maximum number of points in this tournament with 8 points, bettering the champions and hosts Australia. They started their dream run to the finals with a big win against the home team in the opening game of the tournament, followed by another impressive win against Bangladesh. Their toughest challenge was against New Zealand, against whom they were able to cling on, winning the game by 3 runs even after Amelia Kerr’s late assault. They rounded out their winning streak with another convincing win against Sri Lanka, beating them by 7 wickets with more than 5 overs to spare. That win meant that not only did they have more points compared to the others in the group, they also have the highest net run-rate among the 5 teams of the group.
Being the table-toppers of Group A, they faced England, the second-placed team of Group B in the semi-finals at Sydney. However, with heavy and persistent rains in Sydney during the course of the match, the match was called off. With the match being abandoned and with no reserve days available for the semi-finals, they were eliminated from the competition as they finished second in their group while their opposition finished first in theirs. The sad exit made the English captain rue the side’s group-stage loss to South Africa while there were brewing debates on whether reserve days should be made mandatory for the playoffs for all future tournaments. India, meanwhile, celebrated their progression to the finals of the tournament for the first time and were waiting to know whom they would eventually face in the final.
The tournament hosts, Australia, did not have as good a tournament as they would have liked to have. They were defeated in the opening game against eventual group-toppers and the contenders for the title, India. Against Sri Lanka, they were also in trouble, losing their first 3 wickets with just 10 runs on the board, chasing 122, but Meg Lanning and Rachel Haynes combined to chase the target. Alyssa Healy had a good game against Bangladesh in a comprehensive win by close to 90 runs. They finished off beating New Zealand narrowly by 4 runs in what was essentially a knock-out game for them.
They faced South Africa, the table-toppers of Group B, in the semi-finals. With South Africa as table-toppers and with Australia second in their group, Australia had to win to go through to the finals. However, with rain washing out the preceding semi-finals, Australia was hoping that they do not suffer the same fate as England. Eventually, the rain clouds cleared and South Africa won the toss and duly chose to field. With Australia on 68/1 in just the 9th over, many expected them to post over 150. However, Nadine de Klerk’s quick wickets meant that the captain, Meg Lanning, had to anchor the innings and reassess the target and they ended up with 134. As soon as the innings ended, the rain returned and Australia was again praying that they would get to complete the game. The match started in the nick of time as South Africa were required to chase 98 in 13 overs to progress to the finals for the first time. However, despite the fighting innings by Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus, they finished 5 runs short and suffered another heartbreaking exit from the tournament, while the hosts set up a finals date with India.
Australia Vs India – Head-To-Head
Australia and India have met each other quite frequently in recent times playing a tri-series earlier this year before playing the opening game of the tournament in Sydney. Australia has faced India 19 times in the T20I format and won a staggering 13 times with India having won just 6 games. However, since their finals appearance in the 50-over World Cup in 2017, India has been a different side, winning 3 of their 7 T20Is against Australia and losing 4.
In the World T20 tournament, Australia has faced India on 4 occasions with both sides winning 2 games each. Australia has won in the 2010 and 2012 editions but India has emerged victorious in the last 2 meetings – in 2018 and in the league game in this edition. In their most recent game, Shafali Verma got India off to a flyer but wickets in the middle overs meant that India ended up with a par score of 132. However, the Indian spinners found a lot of purchase from the pitch and dismissed the hosts for 115, winning the game by 17 runs.
Australia may have a good record against India, but going by the recent encounters between the sides, the Indian team has caught up to them. With injuries to players such as Ellyse Perry and the in-form Indian line-up, it is set to be a very close contest between these two top sides.
Australia Squad – Alyssa Healy (wicket-keeper), Beth Mooney, Ashleigh Gardner, Meg Lanning (captain), Rachael Haynes, Ellyse Perry, Annabel Sutherland, Jess Jonassen, Nicola Carey, Georgia Wareham, Megan Schutt, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Erin Burns, Molly Strano
Australia has got a lot of experience in the squad led ably by their captain, Meg Lanning. She leads from the front with her excellent batting and captaincy skills, especially in the knockouts. She is the first Australian cricketer, male or female, to score 2000 runs in T20Is. Alyssa Healy was out of form but seems to have rediscovered her touch with a superb performance against Bangladesh. Ellyse Perry is an excellent all-rounder having taken the highest number of wickets in T20Is and will form an important part of the side even if she is not able to play among the XI. Beth Mooney is excellent with the bat while Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince and Ashleigh Gardner can be a handful with both bat and ball. In fact, Beth Mooney’s 71 and Jess Jonassen’s five-wicket haul won Australia the title in the recently concluded tri-series. In the bowling department, Megan Schutt is fast, accurate and lethal while Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham will have an important role to play as spinners. Annabel Sutherland is also a talented bowler who can contribute with the bat.
Australia has been hampered by the recent injuries to Tayla Vlaeminck and Ellyse Perry. While Tayla Vlaeminck has been replaced with Molly Strano, Ellyse Perry continues to be with the team as her inputs are deemed too valuable for the team even if she does not play.
With the recent injury to Ellyse Perry, Sophie Molineux and Delissa Kimmince played in their semi-final game against South Africa. Australia will, most probably, stick to this combination for the finals.
Likely XI – Meg Lanning (captain), Alyssa Healy (wicket-keeper), Beth Mooney, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachel Haynes, Jess Jonassen, Nicola Carey, Sophie Molineux, Megan Schutt, Georgia Wareham, Delissa Kimmince
India Squad – Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Harleen Deol, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Richa Ghosh, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Shafali Verma, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav
The Indian batting line-up is quite powerful which the Australian women’s team coach Matthew Mott agreed when he claimed that they are ‘the most feared batting line-up’ of the tournament.
The Indian line-up looks very formidable. Shafali Verma has already shown the immense values that her knock can bring to the side. Smriti Mandhana may be having an average tournament must the southpaw is reliable and capable of scoring at brisk rates. Jemimah Rodrigues and captain Harmanpreet Kaur round out a very good batting core. The middle-order seems to have regained some ground with Deepti Sharma guiding her side to a competitive score against Australia and Veda Krishnamurthy performing against Bangladesh. Taniya Bhatia has also performed in certain cases. On the bowling front, India has shown its spin bowling resources with Poonam Yadav leading the wickets column. Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Radha Yadav are also very skilled spinners and Deepti Sharma is a very good spinner herself. Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar and Arundhati Reddy are the only seam bowling options in the squad.
India has no injury scares and, barring last-minute illness and injuries, should be fielding the same team that played against Sri Lanka.
Likely XI – Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Veda Krishnamurthy, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav
Players to Watch out for
Alyssa Healy (Australia) – Australian wicket-keeper Alyssa Healy has been out of touch recently but had a great outing against Bangladesh, scoring a 53-ball 83. Known for her aggressive style of play and fast starts, she can demoralize the opposition’s bowling attack and give her team a head-start. She also had a very good 2019 as she eclipsed her captain’s knock of 133* against England in the Ashes to record the highest individual score (148*) against Sri Lanka. On the way, she completed her century in only 46 balls making it the second-fastest century in Women’s T20Is. She also made a half-century against the same opposition in the opening game of the tournament. With 161 runs, she is one of the leading run-getters of this tournament.
Shafali Verma (India) – The young Indian sensation, Shafali Verma has been winning a lot of hearts with powerful strokeplay and clean hitting. She has given her side a healthy start every time she has come out into the middle in this tournament with 29 off 15 balls against Australia, 39 off 17 balls against Bangladesh, 46 off 34 balls against New Zealand and 47 off 34 balls against Sri Lanka. She is key to India’s fortunes, especially in the Powerplays where she has scored 124 runs at a strike rate of more than 180, hitting 8 sixes. The next best player has scored only 77 runs in this period with a strike rate of 127, hitting just 2 sixes. She is also among the leading run-getters of the tournament.
Beth Mooney (Australia) – Beth Mooney has been an important player in the Australian side in limited-overs cricket. Representing Australia in 51 T20I matches, she has scored 1374 runs at an average of over 36 runs. What is more remarkable is that she has as many as 2 centuries and 8 half-centuries in this format. She is in very good form at the moment, scoring an unbeaten 81 against Bangladesh and an important 60 against New Zealand in the last league game. With 181 runs from 5 matches, she is currently the third-highest run-getter in this tournament.
Smriti Mandhana (India) – A reliable opener and an experienced campaigner, Smriti Mandhana is one of India’s most prolific run-getter. She will look to build a strong foundation for India while batting, providing the supporting role to Shafali Verma while she is at the crease and will look to be the aggressor after her dismissal. She may have had a poor run in this tournament but she had a very good tri-series just before this tournament with scores of 35 against Australia, 45 against England, 55 against Australia again and 66 in the tri-series final with India failing to chase down Australia’s score. She will hope to avenge that defeat when it really matters – the finals of a major tournament like the World T20.
Meg Lanning (Australia) – Australian skipper Meg Lanning has had a very good career so far. She has played 103 T20Is scoring 2772 runs with 2 centuries and 13 half-centuries. She scored 133* against England in last year’s Ashes. Since then, her form has not been as good with just a single fifty to her name in the West Indies. However, against Sri Lanka, she scored an important 41 runs in 44 balls to anchor the innings after the fall of 3 early wickets dented their chase which shows how important she is to this side. She also scored an unbeaten 49 in the semi-finals against South Africa. Her experience as a player and captain will be handy as Australia look to win their fifth title.
Harmanpreet Kaur (India) – The Indian skipper may have had a quiet tournament with just 26 runs from 4 games including 3 single-figure scores. However, Australia will know the danger she possesses first-hand from the experience of the 2017 World Cup semi-finals where she scored an unbeaten 171 in just 115 balls, which knocked Australia out of the World Cup. She is quite an experienced player, featuring in 113 T20Is for her country, scoring 2182 runs with a century and 6 half-centuries to her name. The World T20 final also coincides with her birthday and she will hope to do what it takes to give a great gift to herself and her countrymen.
Megan Schutt (Australia) – Megan Schutt is Australia’s leading pace bowler. Her express pace can rattle opponents. She has played in 66 T20Is in which she has picked up 85 wickets at an average of under 16 runs. She is the joint-highest wicket-taker in the competition, having picked up 9 wickets, including 2 three-for in the last two league games – against Bangladesh and New Zealand. She is aware of these conditions and will look forward to taking a couple of quick wickets to hamper the Indian batting.
Poonam Yadav (India) – Indian spinner, Poonam Yadav has been the most prolific spin-bowler in the tournament, taking 9 wickets from 4 games at an average of under 10 runs per wicket. Against the same opposition in the tournament opener, she claimed 4 of those wickets for just 19 runs as India derailed the Australian chase from a very good start. She also took three wickets against Bangladesh. After a tepid end to the league stage where she picked up just one wicket each against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, she will hope to bounce back and end the tournament as the highest wicket-taker against the hosts, who are not very comfortable batting when the ball spins viciously.
Pitch & Conditions
The match between Australia and India will be played at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground. There have been 7 T20Is played at this venue, with teams betting first winning 3 times and the teams batting second winning 4 games. Australia has featured in all the 7 games and has won 5 of them. India has played here once and won. The average score batting first is only 125, but the pitch is expected to stay flat, which means that a lot of runs may be in store. The atmosphere will be electric, with around 90,000 supporters cheering for both the teams, which will just add to the pressure created by such a thrilling occasion like a World Cup Final.
The temperature is expected to stay between 10 and 22 degrees Celsius, which would very pleasant for the players. More importantly, the skies are expected to be clear with no threat of rain during the course of this match.
The pressure of a World Cup Final would make teams winning the toss bat first and put up a defendable score on the board.
Will India be able to win the tournament and make the country proud? Or will Australia take the title for the fifth time in their home soil? We can’t wait for this match. Follow us on Twitter for all the updates.