WC: All to play for as teams prepare for battle
Mumbai, Feb 7 : After an exciting group phase that had its fair share of upsets, the Super Six stage of the ICC Women's World Cup (WC) India 2013 kicks off tomorrow (Friday) with New Zealand taking on giant killers Sri Lanka at the Bandra Kurla Complex and West Indies facing South Africa in Cuttack, both matches are 0900 starts.
Meanwhile, Australia will play its old foe, England, in a high-voltage encounter at the Cricket Club of India also beginning at 0900.
Australia is in the most advantageous position as it is the only team to have entered the Super Sixes with four points, having beaten both South Africa and New Zealand - the other two teams to qualify from Group B.
New Zealand, England, West Indies and Sri Lanka have two points while South Africa carry no points into this round of the tournament.
A win in its first game would put Jodie Fields' Australian side in pole position to qualify for the final. The tournament rules stipulate that teams that progress to the Super Six stage carry forward points from the group stage matches won against other sides that also advance.
Australia captain Fields felt that the team was on the right track going into the Super Six: "I think the team is progressing well. We have three wins in three games and we are looking forward to carry that momentum in the Super Six as well. Every game is important from now on. All the girls are really excited to be in Mumbai."
Batting had been a worry for Australia in their first two games, but the batters' performance against New Zealand, where thety comfortably chased down 228 will be a source of motivation for the team.
While Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes and Jess Cameron have had one good innings each, Australia will need runs from the middle-order trio of Alex Blackwell, Fields and Lisa Sthalekar to mount a title challenge. In the bowling department, new ball duo of Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt, have been among the wicket-takers for the side.
"I am not really worried about our batting. I am happy that Meg Lanning and Jess Cameron had a huge 182-run partnership in the last game. I think the conditions in Mumbai are going to be different to that of Cuttack. I am confident that the middle-order will fire in the coming games and contribute to the team total," said Fields.
Australia's opponents and defending champions England meanwhile have not had it easy in qualifying for the Super Six stage.
After being stunned by Sri Lanka in its opening game, Charlotte Edwards' team has had to pull out all stops. In two must-win games the defending champions showed its mettle, polishing off India and brushing aside West Indies.
England would once again be looking to the pace duo of the tournament's highest wicket-taker, Katherine Brunt (eight wickets), and Player of the Match against West Indies, Anya Shrubsole, to give it some early breakthroughs to put pressure on opponents.
England all-rounder Arran Brindle said that having played at CCI in the group games it would be an advantage: "I think it would be an advantage that we have had from playing here. We know the lines and lengths that we need to bowl to perform well. So we are very fortunate, we are just looking to make sure that we execute our plans."
England skipper Edwards, who was unwell and did not bat in the last game against West Indies, is expected to be fully fit for this next stage of the tournament. "That was obviously just a minor hiccup. She is feeling great now and will be back out there training today. Hopefully everybody is fully fit and ready for tomorrow," said Brindle.
In the other game in Mumbai, New Zealand takes on the tournament's surprise package, Sri Lanka, at the BKC Ground at 0900. New Zealand is the fancied side in the contest but the early morning start could be a potential banana skin should Sri Lanka bowl first in what have been helpful conditions.
In the last game at the venue, England's seamers bowled out West Indies for 101. Skipper Suzie Bates has been the star with the bat with one hundred and two fifties in three matches and is also the tournament's highest run-getter (240 runs at an average of 120).
However, Bates believes that her side is good enough to be able to perform and deliver the goods even if they lose the toss: "It does make a difference with the overhead conditions and the dew in the mornings. There is movement, but we have played two warm-up games here, which is good. I think we are good enough whether we win or lose the toss to put together a strong enough performance. But obviously I would like to win the toss."
Until the ICC Women's World Cup started, Sri Lanka had not beaten any of the top four sides - India, Australia, England and New Zealand - but that soon changed after it beat England and India the group stages.
After having accounted for two of the four in the group stages, Sri Lanka will be attempting to make it four out of four in the Super Sixes. All-rounder Eshani Kaushalya will once again be the key player for the Sri Lankans with her medium pace bowling and attacking batting in the middle-order.
Sri Lanka captain Shashika Sriwardena has always stressed on the side's newfound confidence and nothing stops the team from believing that another upset is around the corner.
"I think it's an open tournament now. We have enough chances to beat anyone. If players can continue the performances that they have given during group stages also, then there is a possibility of going for the trophy," said Sriwardena.
In Cuttack, West Indies take on South Africa at the Barabati Stadium also in a 0900 start. West Indies have been inconsistent in the tournament with two huge losses and one big win.
The ladies from the Caribbean would be looking to channelise their flair with the bat and ball and aim to be more consistent if they should have a realistic chance of going all the way in the tournament.
West Indies will once again be banking on the attacking duo of ICC Women's ODI Player of the Year 2012 Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin to deliver the goods.
Captain Merissa Aguilleira admitted consistency would be the key: "We need to be more consistent in our performances from now on. We know we can perform well, we showed that against Sri Lanka but for this next section of the tournament every match is vital.
"We have the skills - the bowling, the fielding and the batting - and we have to make sure we are firing on all cylinders against the three teams we'll be facing, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
"Australia and New Zealand are two of the strongest teams in the world and have won World Cups while South Africa have shown the improvement over the last 18 months especially when they knocked out Pakistan from the competition - every single one of these next three matches is vital for us to reach our goal of winning the ICC Women's World Cup."
South Africa is the lowest ranked of all teams in the Super Six and also the most disadvantaged, as it is the only side to come into the Super Sixes with no points. On current form, they are the perhaps the least favorites, but this World Cup has thrown more than a few upsets and it will be hoping to leave its mark on the Super Sixes.
"We're really excited to have made the Super Sixes stage, it's just one of the few objectives that we can check off our list as done. What we're really going to concentrate on going into this stage of the tournament is finishing the game, there were a few occasions when we didn't do as well as we knew we could, the Australia match in particular and we aim to ensure that those costly mistakes are not repeated.
"We're really looking forward to the match against the West Indies. We toured the region just a few weeks ago and it'll be interesting to see what each side has done to combat the other at this all important stage.
"We are just going to stick to our basics and play each ball as it comes. Batting is our biggest area of concern in terms of refining the obvious talent that we know we've got. All we need to do is put all the skills we have learned over the years together and ensure we keep calm in the tough spots. It's definitely a game I know all the girls are looking forward to," said Mignon du Preez ahead of the game tomorrow.