NASSER HUSSAIN: I'm backing England to win if rain stays away

NASSER HUSSAIN: I’m backing England to come out on top if rain stays away as the world’s best batter, India’s Shafali Verma, faces the world’s best bowler in England spinner Sophie Ecclestone

  • I hope England stick to the make-up of the side they fielded against West Indies 
  • Sixteen-year-old Shafali Verma shows no fear and tees off from the start  
  • Anya Shrubsole swinging it in to Verma may cramp her up and be the best option
  • England spinner Sophie Ecclestone is now the world’s top-ranked T20 bowler 

The first thing England’s women should do ahead of Thursday’s Twenty20 World Cup semi-final against India is get their shoes on and do whatever the opposite is of a rain dance.

Tuesday’s wash-out here between South Africa and West Indies was a big result because it means the South Africans top Group B ahead of an England side who will now be eliminated if bad weather gets in the way of their semi-final in Sydney on Thursday — because India have a superior group record.

There is no reserve day for the semi-finals. So if no play is possible — and a 10-over game is the minimum permitted in knockouts — the two group winners go through and England will pay the price for their slow start to the tournament.

If there is a bit of grass on the SCG pitch, my gut feeling is England will win on Thursday

England do not often lose to South Africa but that opening defeat — when they were having a poor run of form and had missed out on the final of the tri-series with Australia and India — could prove very costly.

They can only hope it does not come to that because, since then, England have been excellent, with Nat Sciver and Heather Knight outstanding. They bat particularly well together, rotating the strike and running hard — and are both in superb nick. Knight has had a new lease of life out here after the disappointment of last summer’s Ashes.

I hope England stick to the make-up of the side they fielded in their last group game against West Indies, when they brought in an extra bowler, Mady Villiers, and left out their extra batter Lauren Winfield. 

There’s nothing wrong in both Tammy Beaumont and Winfield playing, but having them at six and seven — and they have been as low as seven and eight when Katherine Brunt has been promoted in the line-up — is a waste because they can only face a handful of deliveries there, whereas an extra bowler can have four overs if required.

It made more sense to promote Beaumont to opener, even though she didn’t come off in the last game, and move Amy Jones to the middle order, where she looked far more fluent against West Indies.

England will now play in the first semi-final and that may suit them because the groundsman could leave a bit of moisture in the SCG pitch to stop it deteriorating too quickly with two games being played on the same surface in the same day.

India are very strong at top of order, where Shafali Verma shows no fear and tees off from start

If that pitch is slow and low, it will suit India, particularly Poonam Yadav, who bowls lobs with lots of variation that are difficult to pick and get away. England need to go right back in their crease to play her rather than charge at the ball.

And India are very strong at the top of the order, where 16-year-old Shafali Verma — whose performance in this tournament have lifted her to No 1 in the T20 world batting rankings — shows no fear and tees off from the start.

She bats a bit like Virender Sehwag did and is the biggest reason India have the best record in the tournament in the power-play. Anya Shrubsole swinging it in to Verma may cramp her up and be the best option. 

England’s spinners have been excellent, particularly top-ranked T20 bowler Sophie Ecclestone

But England’s spinners have been excellent, too, particularly Sophie Ecclestone. She is now the top-ranked T20 bowler, replacing Australia’s Megan Schutt — who had been No 1 since March 2018. Ecclestone has taken eight wickets here, second only to Yadav.

England will prefer to play India now even though the other group runners-up, Australia, will be without the injured Ellyse Perry for the rest of the World Cup.

If there is a bit of grass on the SCG pitch, my gut feeling is England will win, but if it’s slow and low, watch out for India — and keep fingers firmly crossed the rain stays away!


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