Potchefstroom, Jan 28 (IANS) When word spread about the inaugural Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup to be held in South Africa in January 2023, many in the cricketing ecosystem were extremely excited about the first-of-its-kind tournament giving a stage for young players to showcase their talent and chase their dreams of playing at the international level.
In the current era in which the visibility of women’s cricket has seen swift growth, the tournament has done its job of putting the future stars of the game in the spotlight. Now, after two weeks of action that has seen 16 teams participate in the competition, it is set up for an exciting finale with Sunday’s title between India and England to be held in the JB Marks Oval at Potchefstroom on Sunday.
While India stormed into the final with comprehensive wins, barring a blip against Australia in the Super Sixes, England are yet to lose a match and have registered thumping victories too. They also showed in their incredible three-run win over Australia in the second semifinal that they can withstand pressure and hold their nerve in tough situations on-field.
For India, Sunday presents a golden opportunity to clinch their first global trophy in their history of featuring in women’s cricket. In a country where India first made the final of a Women’s World Cup, 18 years ago (2005 ODI World Cup final), Shafali Verma & Co have a chance to make history and set the ball rolling for even greater participation of females back home in cricket.
In the run-up to the tournament, India U19 ‘A’ won the quadrangular series in Visakhapatnam that also featured an India U19 ‘B’ team, West Indies and Sri Lanka U19 teams in November 2022. From there, the India U19 team registered a 5-0 clean sweep over the New Zealand Development team in Mumbai in early December and registered a 4-0 win over hosts South Africa.
India also have the calm head of former spinner Nooshin Al Khadeer, who is currently their head coach, to bank upon. Nooshin, a highly successful coach in the women’s domestic circuit was a part of the Indian team that finished runners-up in the 2005 ODI World Cup final in South Africa, and 18 years later, she finds herself on the verge of glory.
Both India and England have strong openers in vice-captain Shweta Sehrawat and captain Grace Scrivens respectively. Shweta has been India’s mainstay with the bat, impressing everyone with her strokeplay and calmness while making 231 runs at an average of 115.50, and has been dismissed only twice in the competition.
Grace, on the other hand, has been consistent at the top with the bat and is the leading run-scorer with 269 runs at an average of 53.80, and also picked six wickets with her off-spin at an average of 7.16. In Parshavi Chopra and Hannah Baker, India and England have quality leg-spinners who can apply brakes on the smooth sailing of the batters.
So what are the areas in which the final could be decided? England’s batters would back themselves to thwart the challenge coming from India’s spinners comprising Parshavi, Archana Devi, Sonam Yadav and Mannat Kashyap.
India would also need a quick knock from captain Shafali to unsettle the England pacers led by seam-bowling all-rounder Ryana MacDonald-Gay. Last year, Ryana took a six-wicket haul while playing for England Select XI against the senior Indian team and had also taken out Shafali that time.
Both India and England have well-rounded squads and look equally serious contenders to be lifting the coveted trophy on Sunday. England would be aiming to make a hat-trick of being inaugural winners in Women’s World Cups while India will be aiming to go all the way and clinch their maiden world title in women’s cricket, showing the world what they are capable of.
India (from): Shafali Verma (captain), Shweta Sehrawat (vice-captain), Richa Ghosh (wicketkeeper), G Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Sonia Mehdiya, S Yashashree, Hrishita Basu (wicketkeeper), Sonam Yadav, Mannat Kashyap, Archana Devi, Parshavi Chopra, Titas Sadhu, Falak Naz and Shabnam MD
England (from): Ellie Anderson, Hannah Baker, Josie Groves, Liberty Heap, Niamh Holland, Ryana MacDonald-Gay, Emma Marlow, Charis Pavely, Davina Perrin, Lizzie Scott, Grace Scrivens (captain), Sophia Smale, Seren Smale, Alexa Stonehouse and Maddie Ward