Yes, and it’s been quite a ride between editions. The Women’s T20 World Cup, the global short-format showcase, was last played in early 2020 and a record MCG crowd of 86,174 watched hosts Australia thrash India by 85 runs in the final on March 8, 2020. That was just days before the world changed dramatically in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. With life now back to normal, for want of a better term, and with women’s cricket making the huge strides that were hoped for off the back of that historic match – also watched by 53 million viewers at home – we are here, in spite of stumbling through lockdowns, travel restrictions and bio-secure bubbles at various stages along the way.
Since then, we have seen global stars descend on the Hundred, which also appears to be fast-tracking the next generation, the first edition of the Women’s CPL and the establishment of the Women’s Premier League, which is set to begin shortly after this tournament. For the first time at a global ICC event, an all-female panel of umpires and match referees will officiate.
Where is this Women’s T20 World Cup being played?
The tournament will be played in South Africa, which has just staged the inaugural Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup, won by India. The majority of matches, including both semi-finals and the final, will be played at Newlands, the jewel of the country’s stadia in Cape Town with Table Mountain as a breath-taking backdrop. A clutch of games will be staged at the picturesque Boland Park in Paarl, less than an hour’s drive north-west, and five fixtures will be held in the space of seven days at St George’s Park in Gqeberha.
Who’s playing, and what are the key dates?
There will be 10 teams taking part, split into two groups. Group A consists of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Group B will feature England, India, Pakistan, West Indies and Ireland. Each team plays the other four in their group once. The top two teams from each group advance to the semi-finals on February 23 and 24. The final is scheduled for February 26, with a reserve day available on February 27.
South Africa directly qualified as hosts and were joined automatically by the top seven teams in the ICC’s world rankings as of November 30, 2021. That left 37 nations to battle for the remaining two places through a series of qualifiers from which Bangladesh and Ireland emerged triumphant. Thailand, who featured in 2020, missed out.
Australia are the favourites, right?
What about India, England and the others? Any challengers?
India pushed Australia in the contest for Commonwealth gold with Australia prevailing by nine runs. India’s Under-19s have just delivered the country’s first World Cup in women’s cricket with a side captained by Shafali Verma and including wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh, both of whom will now join the senior squad hoping to ride their wave of their success.
England, who played second-fiddle at last year’s ODI World Cup, have the quality to contend and have welcomed back captain Heather Knight from a hip injury. They hope promising young allrounder Alice Capsey will have recovered well enough from a broken collarbone to be a factor.
Despite the progress being made, this event is likely to keep a spotlight trained on the gulf between the haves and have-nots, with the best-funded nations still a long way ahead. West Indies’ form has dropped off dramatically since winning the 2016 title, Pakistan offered little competition for Australia in their recent series and Sri Lanka haven’t played a T20I since the Asia Cup final loss to India in October.