With three wins from as many games, India, perched atop the points table, will look to continue their unbeaten streak against sixth-placed Sri Lanka in Derby. After two strong batting performances – against England and West Indies – India’s struggle against Pakistan’s disciplined bowling prompted the captain Mithali Raj to underline the need for batsmen to be wary of a collapse: “We definitely will look into the fact that we don’t lose wickets back-to-back because that puts a lot of pressure on the incoming batters as well as the team. We need to work on our partnerships as batters.”
Having bagged 18 out of the 28 wickets taken by the team so far, India’s spinners have led the charge with the ball on pitches that have offered both turn and lateral movement. With their most recent win having come at the venue just two days ago, it is unlikely India would want to tweak their playing combination. That could mean Shikha Pandey, who was dropped in favour of fellow medium-pacer Mansi Joshi in the previous game, will sit out a second straight match.
Sri Lanka’s hopes of notching up their first victory in this World Cup will rest on their batsmen, with their bowlers having scalped only six wickets in three consecutive defeats. Led by Chamari Atapattu, the second-highest run-getter in the tournament so far, and former captain Shashikala Siriwardene, Sri Lanka have amassed totals in excess of 200 against defending champions Australia and hosts England. It is an accomplishment the captain Inoka Ranaweera emphasised is “a big thing” for the team, and is likely to instill as much confidence in the side as will memories of knocking India out with a shock 138-run win at the 2013 World Cup.
Having opened their campaign with three losses, Pakistan are now left to try turning it around against an Australian team whose batting is as unflinching as their bowling. Despite a narrow loss to South Africa in their tournament opener, Pakistan looked like a team ready to challenge much-fancied opponents. But their bowling and batting let them down, by turns, subsequently, resulting in defeats to England and India by 107 and 95 runs respectively. Apart from openers Nahida Khan and Ayesha Zafar, who have struck one half-century apiece, no other Pakistan batsman has been able to get into the thirties.
An untimely injury to their leading run-getter Bismah Maroof , weakened an already struggling middle order, but the inclusion of medium-pacer Diana Baig inspired Pakistan to a spirited bowling and fielding effort against India on Sunday. Much will depend on Nashra Sandhu’s leg spin for Pakistan to be able to pull off a miracle at Leicester.
Australia have rollicked their way to three wins out of three matches and would look to forge their position at the top of the points table before the knockouts. When opener Nicole Boltonfires, Australia’s middle order plays second fiddle. When Bolton has failed, the captain Meg Lanning has built Australia’s innings, and when both of them do not get a big score – like against New Zealand on Sunday – then allrounder Ellyse Perry joins in to hold the batting together. That has been Australia’s key to success in this World Cup, aided by a robust spin contingent that has pushed one performer to the fore every game.
After being stunned by India in the tournament opener, England bounced back with successive wins. However, they will be wary of their fourth position, given three of their four remaining opponents are semifinal contenders. The first of those comes in the form of South Africa, whom they face in Bristol on Wednesday.
Dane van Niekerk‘s team are fresh off crushing West Indies, having sent them packing for the sixth-lowest score in tournament history on Sunday. Van Niekerk was at the forefront of the demolition of West Indies, her record haul of 4 for 0 making her the only bowler in cricket history to take four wickets in an international game without conceding a run. Prior to the win against West Indies, South Africa had barely scraped through against Pakistan and their match against New Zealand was abandoned without a ball bowled. But with a pace attack that is every bit as potent as van Niekerk talked up before the tournament, South Africa are a force to be reckoned with.
England went back to their regular opening combination against Sri Lanka, with Lauren Winfield, returning from wrist injury, partnering Tammy Beaumont at the top. It facilitated a move down to her favoured No. 3 position for Sarah Taylor, who struck an unbeaten 74 – her first major innings since returning to the side after a year-long break due to anxiety issues.
Bristol is expected to be warm for most of Wednesday, although there could be a partial cloud cover at the start.