After much build-up and preparation, the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup is finally upon us.
Australia plays host to a tournament that is the pinnacle of the international T20 game. 23 matches over 17 days that will ultimately culminate on the 8th of March on one of cricket’s greatest stages, the MCG.
Heather Knight and her side will have their eyes firmly set on reaching that final and hoisting the trophy in just over a fortnight’s time.
There is a long way to go before that, however, and a lot of cricket to be played.
We were given a taste of what is to come with a sizzling opening tie, which saw India narrowly defeat tournament hosts Australia and on Sunday, it’s England’s turn.
Ahead of our tournament opener against South Africa, here’s everything you need to know…
On the back of their 50-over triumph in 2017, victory would make England world champions in both one-day formats.
Knight’s side will feel that if they play to their full potential, they have a very good chance of doing just that.
In Lisa Keightley, England have a coach that could prove to be something of a secret weapon. The Australian has been brought in to help the ECB implement their long-term plan, however, her experience in the Women’s Big Bash League means she is a specialist in this format and these conditions.
She is hardly short of talented players either. In Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt, Keightley has two explosive openers that are capable of getting the side off to flying starts.
The quality of the middle-order, which includes the skipper, Nat Sciver and Fran Wilson amongst others, means you’d have confidence in Keightley’s side chasing down almost any total.
Their bowling attack looks set to be an intriguing balance of youth and experience, a combination of seasoned campaigners like Katharine Brunt and exciting young newcomers like Sophie Glenn.
The tournament involves two groups of five, with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the semi-finals.
England are without doubt the favourites for Group B. South Africa and the West Indies are their toughest competition, while Pakistan and Thailand, both here on merit, are less of a threat.
You feel a lot could be decided in England’s tournament opener against South Africa.
The best of the rest
In many ways, India’s win in the opening game has left the tournament wide open.
That said, the Aussies are undoubtedly the side to watch out for. The tournament hosts have got numerous star players and are the highest-ranked side in the world in this format.
Add into that the fact that the competition is taking place in their backyard and they look a really tough prospect. The defeat today should only spur them on.
As Keightley’s side found out earlier this month, India are not to be underestimated. They have got a fantastically well-balanced side and a number of players capable of taking games away from their opposition.
New Zealand, South Africa, and the West Indies will all feel they’ve got a chance but would be shock winners.
What to expect
First things first, it is going to be 17 days of really exciting action. Expect big-hitting, clever bowling, acrobatic fielding, and dramatic finishes.
The tournament brings together the top players in the international game and looks set to be a fantastic advert for the game.
One of the things that makes T20 such an exciting format is the fact that the shortened game usually means games are closer and more competitive, which may mean we see some upsets.
England have got a fantastic chance of taking the field in Melbourne on the 8th of March. They steamrolled Pakistan at the end of 2019 and showed in the tri-series earlier this month that on their day, they’re capable of beating anyone.
Triumph for Knight’s side would be a really special feat, allowing them to stamp their authority as world champions in both the 50-over and T20 formats.
There has been magic in the air for English cricket in the last 12 months, don’t for one minute think that Knight’s side aren’t capable of getting 2020 started in style.
Bring on Sunday!