Dunedin, March 8 (IANS) The pressure is quickly building on England women’s team skipper Heather Knight to put the ICC Women’s World Cup campaign back on track following their 12-run defeat to arch-rival Australia in the tournament.
As the defending champions take on the Stafanie Tayor-led West Indies, with the Caribbean side on a high after defeating hosts New Zealand in the inaugural match, Wednesday’s fixture at the University Oval here has the feel of a crucial match for rival teams so early into the group stage of the tournament.
The defeat to Australia, while not quite a disaster for England as the defending champions lost the high-scoring match by only a few runs while chasing 310, has put Knight’s side in a spot of bother as the West Indies are on a high following a three-run win over the White Ferns.
And, two losses from two games would leave England under real pressure in the race to finish in the top-four of the group stage and qualify for the semifinals later this month.
Taylor’s side, which got its campaign off to a brilliant start with a dramatic final-over win against the in-form White Ferns, might be ranked seventh in the world, but they showed they have the star quality in the team to do plenty of damage to higher-rated opponents.
A win over England on Wednesday would be a huge boost to the Windies’ hopes of finishing in the top-four, with the fixture list throwing up the more winnable matches — on paper at least — towards the end of the campaign for Taylor and her young squad.
England, in contrast, would know that two defeats from two would put them under huge pressure, with no further slip-ups likely to be allowed as they go in search of one of those semifinal spots.
It’s very early in the World Cup for a game to feel like a must-win, and it’s not the time to panic just yet for Knight and her team. But the 2017 champions will be keen to get themselves on the board and ensure that their title defence isn’t at risk of being dented badly.
English cricketer Natalie Sciver’s international record has been good but not as great as her potential could see her reach. But if she clicks, the 29-year-old could be one of the dominant batters at the tournament, and her century in the loss to Australia hinted that she’s at the top of her game at the right moment for England.
For the West Indies, Hayley Matthews was in sublime form in her team’s win over New Zealand on the opening day of the tournament. Her 119 at the top of the order showed the kind of touch that suggests she could have a big World Cup going forward, and she chipped in with 10 overs and two handy wickets too.
“I think we know going into it that it’s a very long tournament as quite a few of us have been to World Cups before. And it’s not necessarily how you start. It’s how you build momentum and how you finish and how you kind of go into those must win games at the backend. So we knew it was going to be tough, there’s going to be highs and lows. And for us, it’s about sticking together as a group, sticking to the way that we do things,” said England batter Tammy Beaumont to ICC on the eve of the match.
“England’s a team that we’ve played before – we know every player on the team, know all the bowlers, all the batters. So tomorrow really is about applying ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we know the bowlers, we still have to go there and assess each one like it’s the first time we played them. So tomorrow for us really is just about going out there and being brave and doesn’t matter the opposition. We’re just going out there to play cricket,” said West Indies seamer Chinelle Henry.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Amy Jones, Emma Lamb, Nat Sciver (vc), Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt. Travelling Reserves: Lauren Bell, Mady Villiers.
West Indies squad: Stafanie Taylor (c), Anisa Mohammed (vc), Aaliyah Alleyne, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Cherry Ann Fraser, Chinelle Henry, Kycia Knight, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman, Rashada William. Travelling Reserves: Kaysia Schultz, Mandy Mangru, Jannillea Glasgow.