India’s quest to win the T20I Women’s World Cup for the first time in their history begins with a match against their old rivals Pakistan at the Newlands ground in Cape Town.
The match is scheduled to begin at 3 pm local time.
On paper, at least India will start as firm favourites. They are currently 4th in the ICC T20I Women’s World Rankings, whilst Pakistan are seventh, and there is a significant points difference between them.
But as the host nation South Africa have already found out to their cost, there is a danger in underestimating lower ranked opponents. They began their World Cup campaign by losing their opening game to Sri Lanka.
With just two teams progressing to the knock-out stages of the competition, and with England, Ireland, and the West Indies also in Group Two, even at this stage of the tournament there is little room for error.
Head to Head
The two teams have played each other 13 times before in T20I cricket, and the current record reads 10 wins to India as opposed to three for Pakistan.
In terms of previous T20I World Cups, there have been six previous meetings between the sides, with India coming out on top on four occasions.
However, the last time they met, it was Pakistan who emerged the winners. That was in the Asia Cup last year, in Sylhet, Bangladesh, with Pakistan winning by 13 runs. India would recover from that defeat to win the Cup.
India’s recent form
India have been in good form coming into the tournament, but they suffered a setback in the final of a tri-nation series that also featured South Africa and the West Indies.
Having topped the group with a 100% record, they would have been confident going into the final against South Africa. But it was the home side that won the match, securing a five-wicket win.
Since then, India have played two warm-up games. The first was against the World Champions and pre-tournament favourites Australia in Cape Town which resulted in a 44-run defeat.
The second was two days later against Bangladesh in Stellenbosch which saw them claim a comprehensive 52-run victory.
Top Order concerns
Although captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana were rested for the Bangladesh game, the form of the Indian top order is a concern, having largely failed in both games. It took a timely 41 from Jemimah Rodrigues and unbeaten 91 from Richa Ghosh to post a competitive total against the Bangladeshis, but there will be concern over the form of Shafali Verma.
She recently led the under-19 side to World Cup glory in South Africa, but there are fears about the mental toll that may have taken on her given that she is so young.
Meanwhile, Pakistan too enjoyed mixed fortunes in their warm-up games.
In their first, they too beat Bangladesh by six wickets with four overs to spare. However, they then suffered a six-wicket reverse to South Africa in the second, although the match was closer than that suggests.
Pakistan Players to Watch
Dar is a veteran at 36 years old and is highly experienced, having played 84 ODIs and more than 100 T20Is for her country. The first Pakistan woman to take more than 100 wickets in T20I cricket, she was named their Player of the Tournament at the 2018 World Cup.
She is nicknamed “Lady Boom” because she can also hit the ball very hard with the bat, as she showed with a cameo 24 not out in the defeat of Bangladesh.
Riaz is a right hander batter who combines that with bowling off breaks. She showed that she is in good form by making an unbeaten 48 in the defeat by South Africa. She has a batting average of better than 34 in T20I cricket.
History favours India, but that will count for little when the two teams step onto the field. And given that matches between India and Pakistan are always competitive, whoever is involved and whatever the format and this will be no different.
There will be concerns in the Indian camp about how their top order batters have been struggling recently. But if they can find some form, then India should be capable of making a winning start.
VISIT OUR BLG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT CRICKET NEWS STORIES & FEATURES