As redemption stories go, India Women overturning the disappointment of 2020 to secure another chance at T20 World Cup glory would do nicely. The only problem is, they have to make it past Australia – again.
After winning their opening match in Sydney during the last T20 World Cup, being outplayed when it counted most in an 85-run thrashing at a packed MCG for the final stung India. They can cling to key successes against the title favourites – the 2017 ODI World Cup semi-final, clinching one of the five T20Is in a Super Over during their recent home bi-lateral series, or their only other win over Australia at this event, in the group stages of the 2018 edition – or they can take the fight to their opponents now. With Australia having won 22 of their 30 T20I meetings overall and India only six, not to mention the Australians winning 54 of the 63 T20Is they’ve played against all opposition since the start of 2018, looking ahead may well be the way to go for an Indian side seeking an upset.
Both teams are probably yet to strike the perfect performance in this tournament. While each have gone largely unchallenged they have made some of their matches look slightly harder than they were or needed to be, but both boast enough depth to have gotten the job done. Richa Ghosh has performed well with three unbeaten knocks in the middle order, although Australia bat deeper, and India need more than one of their top four to fire on this occasion. Renuka Singh has been potent with her lethal inswingers while Australia have balanced their strong seam and spin options nicely. India know they need everything to click if they are to topple the title favourites.
2023 Tournament form guide
India WLWW (most recent first) Australia WWWW
In the spotlight
Shafali Verma heads into the match with scores of 33, 28, 8 and 24 so far at this event and with India needing a flawless batting performance from their top order. India could do with their Under-19 World Cup-winning captain, who scored a half-century against Australia in a losing cause during their third T20I in December, reprising or improving on that performance. Harmanpreet Kaur pushed herself up the order against Ireland seeking some touch after a similarly lacklustre tournament with the bat so far, putting even greater importance on India getting a good start through their young opener. Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues have both put in match-winning performances during this competition. Imagine what India can do with an on-song Shafali and Harmanpreet too.
Legspinner Alana King is a proven match-turner but has gone wicketless at this World Cup. Used sparingly in the last group match against South Africa and the opening clash with New Zealand, where offspinner Ashleigh Gardner bagged five, it is a testament to Australia’s spin-bowling depth – they’ve also had the world-class left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen sitting on the bench since after their first game – that she hasn’t yet had her chance to shine. With India’s batters performing far better against pace than they have against spin compared to all other opposition at this event, King has the potential to cause them some problems if she takes her chance.
India may be tempted to swap out Devika Vaidya for an additional bowler or allrounder as they look to contain Australia. Radha Yadav is a gun fielder and a safe choice with India likely to opt for another spin option over seam. She made way for Vaidya against Ireland since she was unwell but could force her way back in if fit.
Alyssa Healy is fit and available for selection after missing Australia’s final group game against South Africa when she felt some discomfort in her left quad and all precautions were taken given that she has only recently returned from a calf injury to the same leg. Australia coped ably without her, moving Ellyse Perry to the top of the order and bringing in allrounder Annabel Sutherland, but everyone knows what an asset a fit Healy is to her side.
Australia (possible): Alyssa Healy (wk), Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning (capt), Ellyse Perry, Ashleigh Gardner, Tahlia McGrath, Grace Harris, Georgia Wareham, Alana King, Megan Schutt, Darcie Brown
Pitch and conditions
Newlands has been playing slow this summer but there was considerably more pace on the surface during the last of the group games on Tuesday. Cape Town had some rain in the lead-up to those matches which would have helped with that given that the square has been baking for a good couple of months now. Thursday’s semi-final is likely to be played on a fresh pitch with the fine, sunny but not-too-hot conditions of match eve forecast to continue into game day.
Stats and trivia
India are the best team in terms of scoring rate against pace bowling in this tournament, with Australia ranked second, but against spin, India’s strike rate drops by 31 runs and they are ranked sixth among the 10 teams.
Over the past five years, Australia have conceded 160-plus totals only eight times and five of those were to India.
Australia have beaten India in 22 of their 30 T20I meetings and won three of their five T20 World Cup clashes.
“As a group, we are very calm and we know that teams are going to come pretty hard at this and they have done over the last few years, and just to be able to absorb some pressure, I think is really important. You’re not going to have it all your own way… big games, there’re key moments that come up and tomorrow will be no different. I feel like we’re in a really good spot to be able to stay nice and calm and composed in those moments and hopefully get the job done.” Captain Meg Lanning on Australia’s trademark mental composure.
“They attack a lot so, whatever happens to them, even if the batter is out, they don’t stop attacking because they have batters from top to bottom. We also have batters from top to bottom so we will play an attacking game.” India’s Richa Ghosh on giving Australia a dose of their own medicine.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women’s cricket, at ESPNcricinfo