It has been just over a week since Australia were named ICC T20 Women’s World Cup champions after defeating India in the final by 85 runs in front of 86,174 fans at the MCG.
T20 is a fickle format and predicting the winner of a T20 tournament is a roll of the dice.
There are three serious contenders at this ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. They are all well balanced line-ups with strong contributions from their batters, bowlers and fielders. If they play to their ability and form, they are very difficult to beat.
There are also three roughies, who have good line-ups with a handful of stars, but will need to play at the top of their ability and have a few things go their way to be triumphant.
Australia (ICC T20 ranking: 1)
Australia are reigning champions and short-priced favourites to take out the title for what would be the fifth time. They’ve found themselves in unfamiliar territory recently, dropping a couple of matches earlier this month in a lead-in tri-series with England and India. However, they are a formidable side with depth and experience, and will be difficult to beat in tournament play.
Their batting quality goes so deep they barely have a stub of a tail. While their batters have experienced patchy form in the lead-up matches, the tenacity in the line-up has still seen them post defendable targets and mount solid, if not successful, chases.
Openers Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney are experiencing contradictory form. Healy has scored single-digit totals for the longest time since her debut almost a decade ago, while Mooney has made it look easy for the last couple of years. It should turn around for Healy during the tournament, and in the mean time, she’s still the best keeper in the women’s game. Meanwhile, captain Meg Lanning has transformed herself into a wonderful T20 batter over the last few years.
Really, listing standout batters for Australia could very well result in listing most of the squad. However, Jess Jonassen deserves a mention. She’s often called on to move around the order to play her role, and rarely lets the side down.
Australia’s bowling depth is almost as long with plenty of options for captain Meg Lanning to call on for whatever the situation requires. The bowling has been more consistent than the batting in the lead-up to the World Cup. Expect economical performances from Megan Schutt, Ellyse Perry and the left-arm orthodox Jess Jonassen. There will be handy wicket-taking by the likes of Ashleigh Gardner, Sophie Molineux, Nicola Carey and Molly Strano, who was a late change to the squad for the injured Tayla Vlaeminck.
The gap between the top teams and those in middle has been rapidly closing, and everyone wants to beat the champions Australia. While not taking the strongest form into the tournament, their quality is undeniable, and they are still the best squad at the tournament on paper.
England (ranking: 2)
England will no doubt be looking to go one better than they did in 2018, when they finished runners-up after losing to Australia by eight wickets in the final. This is one of the many times they’ve lost a world tournament in the final to Australia.
England are well placed to go all the way. They have deep bowling and batting options and many of the England squad have valuable experience playing in Australian conditions with them having a heavy presence in the WBBL for a number of years.
Opening batter and captain Heather Knight is in the form of her life. Her batting in the recent tri-series was unparalleled. She consistently occupied the crease and found runs with ease when very few others could do so for more one innings.
While England may not have the hitting capacity of New Zealand or the West Indies, they do have a long list of batters that hit the ball around the ground well and some long hitters. It might not be as spectacular, but it does result in them scoring steadily and minimising the impact of losing wickets.
The bowling outfit provides plenty of choices for Knight, which is probably why she doesn’t take the ball herself as often as she could. The bowling of Nat Sciver, Sophie Ecclestone and Katherine Brunt is potent and economical.
England have plenty of recent experience at the pointy end of tournaments, which should put them in good stead if they get that far. It is, however, most likely that they would need to beat Australia along the way to successfully pursue the trophy. This is something that they’ve found difficult to do on the big stage.
New Zealand (ranking: 3)
The White Ferns will come into the tournament with well-placed confidence. They just won a T20 series against South Africa 3-1 on home soil in convincing fashion and around half their squad were in splendid form in the recent WBBL05 on Australian pitches.
New Zealand have the strongest team they’ve taken to a world tournament yet. They’re a team with more all-rounders than sole batters or bowlers and this flexibility serves them well in this format.
All-rounder Sophie Devine not only leads the team as captain but also leads the collectively superb form. She was the WBBL05 player of the tournament and despite being considered a batting all-rounder she’d win a spot in most international teams as either a bowler or a batter, as might fellow all-rounders Amelia Kerr and Suzie Bates. Right-arm leggy Kerr beats both side of the bat and delivers handy cameos, if required, in the middle order.
Beyond the all-rounders, other players to watch include top-order batter Rachel Priest and medium-fast bowler Lea Tahuhu. Priest is seeing the ball well and loves to score in boundaries, particularly with long bombs in power plays, while Tahuhu sends rockets down the pitch and can be extremely difficult to get away.
New Zealand are a good chance to go deep in the tournament and have every reason to be confident that they can lift the trophy.
India (ranking: 4)
India’s squad has a lot of young talent with bagfuls of potential, and some experienced players with exceptional ability. They also have a lot of pressure on their shoulders with expectations that they would break through for their maiden world tournament win mounting over the last few years. With a few tweaks on the margins, India could finally do just that.
In recent matches India have shown they’re short a batter or three in the line-up. But the batting they do have is, on its day, majestic. This includes the dangerous opening partnership, which combines the graceful batting stylings of Smriti Mandhana and the 16-year-old phenom Shafali Verma. They are followed by down-the-ground hitter Jemimah Rodrigues and captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who is often likened to MS Dhoni. Beyond this, India’s batting is quite fragile and you never know what you’re going to see. But the top four batters are so good that if they’re firing, they can carry the team.
India’s bowling is solid, but not spectacular. They’re quite spin heavy with limited options for variety when they need a breakthrough. Quality bowler Radha Yadav is due to make her return from injury and should have an impact. Rajeshwari Gayakwad, a skiddy left-arm orthodox, was the bowler of the recent tri-series tournament with Australia and England. Her fielding took some of the shine off, with misfields on the boundary leaking plenty of runs and a number of dropped catches.
If India’s key batters fire and overcome their habit of turning twos into ones, India could go all the way. On current form they’re an even chance with New Zealand to proceed from the group stage to the semi-finals. They’d then need to put together two consistent performances against quality outfits.
South Africa (ranking: 7)
South Africa have a very experienced squad – arguably the strongest they’ve ever sent to a tournament – and they’re playing good cricket so far this year. In addition, their best players have a number of seasons in WBBL under their belt.
South Africa has a cohort of powerful batters that can devastate a power play and then just keep on coming down the order, from openers Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt to Marizanne Kapp and Chloe Tryon in the middle order. The batting is balanced with the glorious Mignon du Preez and captain Dane van Niekerk. As good as the talent in the batting line-up is, they are susceptible to feeling the pressure of a big run chase and crumbling.
The squad includes a couple of the quickest and most accurate bowlers going around in Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp. They are accompanied by the prodigious spin of van Nierkerk. However, South Africa can be their own worst enemy sometimes with loose bowling and looser fielding, giving up runs and hard-fought catching opportunities.
While South Africa are the most likely to join England to make it out of the group stage, they’ll need to be playing exceptional cricket to win the next two. They are capable of that, and with the luck of the coin toss going their way, they might just do it.
West Indies (ranking: 6)
The West Indies have gone with a squad that balances experience and youthful energy. They’re also bolstered by the return from injury of captain Stafanie Taylor and fellow star batting all-rounder Deandra Dottin.
When firing, the West Indies’ aggressive batting is exciting to watch. On their day, the bombastic hitting of any of Dottin, Taylor or Hayley Matthews is worth the price of admission on its own. But the all-or-nothing approach often shown by the batting line-up can lead to collapses, low totals and feeble chases.
The squad has solid bowling stocks. Expect key wicket-takers to include Anisa Mohammed and the all-rounders Matthews, Dottin and Taylor. Shakera Selman and Chinelle Henry have shown tight bowling in two warm-up matches against Pakistan and will hope to carry this form into the tournament.
It will take a significant alignment of good batting and bowling for the West Indies to finish in the top two of their group and qualify for the semi-finals. It’s not impossible but it will require substantial reward from the risks they’re prone to taking in their playing style, and either England or South Africa to under-perform.
If they did reach the semi-finals, it’s hard to see them getting the better of two of their likely opponents – Australia, India or New Zealand – which they’d need to do to take the title.
How does the tournament work?
Each team will play four group matches. The top two teams from each group will progress to the semi-finals, with the top team from Group A playing the second top team from Group B and vice-versa. The winners of each semi-final will meet in the final.
Group A: Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka.
Group B: England, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, West Indies.