Australia hosts India with an aim to extend ICC Women’s Championship lead
ICC Women’s Championship braces itself for some exciting, entertaining and highly competitive cricket over the next couple of weeks when leading sides, which include some of the top performers in the women’s cricket, go head to head with an aim to strengthen their claims of directly qualifying for next year’s ICC Women’s World Cup in England.
Co-leader Australia hosts seventh-placed India in a three-match ODI series, starting in Canberra on 2 February, while an unbeaten fourth-placed South Africa hosts fifth-placed England in Benoni in first of the three ODIs on 7 February.
The top four sides from the ICC Women’s Championship will gain automatic qualification for the event proper, which is to be staged in England from 4-27 August, while the bottom four sides will get a final chance of qualification through the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in 2017.
The tournament structure sees each team play each other in one home or away series that will include three ODIs over a two-and-a-half year period. As such, each side is guaranteed at least 21 ODIs over the tournament period.
Australia currently has the same number points as the West Indies, but it has played one less round of matches. A series win against India will give it the sole possession of the top spot in the Championship table.
England, meanwhile, needs to win all the three matches if it wants to displace South Africa from the fourth spot.
Lanning: “We’re raring to go”
Australia, despite losing the Twenty20 International series 1-2, will start as favourite against India. It has won eight of the nine Championship matches to date, has the home advantage as well as an impressive 13-3 head-to-head record against Mitali Raj’s side.
Australia is keen to win this series, but it has an eye on the bigger picture as well.
Captain Meg Lanning, who won the ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year 2015 in December and is the number-one ranked batter, said: “We’ve got two big series coming up against India and New Zealand which should place us really well heading into the upcoming ICC Women’s World Twenty20.
“We look forward to testing ourselves – and hopefully cementing our top spot in the ICC Women’s Championship – before getting ready to defend our title in India. We’re raring to go.”
Coach Matthew Mott added his players were in top form. “It’s been a big summer for women’s cricket in Australia, which has given our players great preparation leading into our upcoming series against India at home.
“It’s an exciting time for women’s cricket and we’ve got a number of opportunities for players to put their hand up and press for Australia selection for the ICC Women’s World Twenty20.”
Raj: “It will be a tough and challenging series”
India, meanwhile, has a chance to rise as high as fourth in the Championship table if it wins all three games. India is yet to win a series in the Championship to date, having lost to New Zealand and South Africa at home by an identical margin of 2-1, and to England 2-0.
It is Raj and her side’s first trip to Australia in seven years and the number-six ranked batter in the MRF Tyres ICC Player Rankings for ODI Batters believes her side can improve.
“India definitely is not in the position we would like to be in and it will be our earnest endeavor to get to being one of the top teams,” the top-order batter said.
She added: “We do have a lot of young talent and the experience in Jhulan and me to combine well and get to the top places where India should belong and that is our mission Down under. It will be a tough and a challenging series and we want to give it all and our efforts should and will improve the rankings”.
Unbeaten South Africa plays England from 7-14 February at home; Taylor set to become seventh Englishwoman and 23rd player overall to play in 100 or more ODI
Over in South Africa, the early focus in the three-match ODI series between the host and England would be on visiting wicketkeeper-batter Sarah Taylor, who is set to win her 100th ODI cap in Benoni on 7 February. When Taylor will take the field, she will become the 23rd player overall, and seventh Englishwoman to achieve this milestone.
England coach Mark Robinson is glad to have her in his squad: “Sarah Taylor is a hugely talented player and has been a key member of the England women’s squad for a decade now, which is a remarkable achievement for someone who is still only 26 years old.
“To have a player with her level of experience, and the ability to do something extraordinary, is a big positive for the squad.”
Eight England and four South Africa players have been getting crucial match practice by featuring in Australia’s domestic women’s competition, which, according to England captain Charlotte Edwards has been very useful.
“The tournament itself presented us with a good opportunity to test our skills in a new environment, alongside exposing us to high pressure situations, and the challenge of being match winners for our teams. I am certain that all of this combined will have helped to develop us as cricketers,” Edwards said.
South Africa coach Hilton Moreeng: “It would be a competitive series due to the quality of players in both sides and what is at stake”
South Africa is yet to lose a series in the Championship, but in eight ODIs played against England since 2006, South African’s tally reads - played eight, lost eight.
South African Coach Hilton Moreeng is aware that the series against England will be a challenging one.
“We know it is going to be a tough assignment due to the quality of England squad. Our approach will be to take it one match at a time and compete for every point available. The team has done well so far to be in the top four after playing our first three series away from home. It would be a competitive series due to the quality of players in both teams and what is at stake.”
In the MRF ICC Women’s Player Rankings, Lanning leads the batting charts while Sarah Taylor has the chance to stake a sole claim of second position, which she currently shares with Suzie Bates of New Zealand. Fifth-ranked Edwards too has an opportunity to make her way up the rankings as she is just 22 points behind her teammate.
Apart from Raj, India’s Harmanpreet Kaur, who is her side’s leading run-scorer with 215 runs in eight matches is seventh.
Amongst the bowlers, India’s Jhulan Goswami leads the pack. She is 109 points ahead of her closest rival Anisa Mohammed of the West Indies and England’s Katherine Brunt, who share second position. The former India captain has taken 173 wickets to date and needs eight more wickets to move ahead of Australia’s Cathryn Fitzpatrick as the leading wicket-taker in women’s cricket.
Australia’s Ellyse Perry and Erin Osborne are in fifth and ninth places, respectively.
Keep an eye out for some major shifts in these rankings as the ICC Women’s Championship moves into top gear, come February.
India: Mithali Raj (c), Jhulan Goswamy (vc), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana ,Niranjana Nagarajan, Shikha Pandey, Kalpana R, Sneh Rana ,Poonam Raut, MD Thirushkamini, Sushma Verma, Poonam Yadav
Coach: Purnima Rau
Australia: Meg Lanning(c), Alex Blackwell, Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Sarah Coyte, Rene Farrell, Holly Ferling, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt Key
Coach: Matthew Mott
England: Charlotte Edwards (c), Katherine Brunt, Kathryn Cross Georgia Elwiss, Lydia Greenway, Rebecca Grundy, Jenny Gunn, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight (vice-captain), Tammi Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt
Coach: Mark Robinson
South Africa: TBA
Note – two points for a win, no point for a loss and one point for a no-result