Women’s Cricket World Cup: Mithali Raj-led India ready for final vs England
India captain Mithali Raj has warned England not to expect an easy contest when they come up against her side in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.
Harmanpreet Kaur struck an astonishing unbeaten 171 -- the highest score by an Indian player, male or female, in a World Cup knockout match -- to set the platform for a thrilling 36-run semi-final victory over defending champions Australia at Derby on Thursday.
That set-up a rematch of the opening fixture of the tournament, where India beat England by 35 runs, to decide who lifts the World Cup trophy in front of a sell-out Lord’s crowd.
“As a team we are all very excited to be part of the final,” said Raj, reflecting on India reaching their first World Cup final since 2005.
“We knew that this tournament wasn’t going to be easy but the way the girls have turned up at every situation when the team needed, whether it was the batters or bowlers, this win has definitely changed the scenario in terms of how the girls will look up to the final.
“It definitely isn’t going to be easy for England. But it will come down to how we perform on that day. We really have to work on our planning and strategy because England have also peaked after being defeated by us in the first game.
“They have performed well in the run up to the final, so playing a host in their own country is going to be a challenge. But saying that this unit is up for it.”
Big Bash League’s influence
Raj, while addressing the post-match press conference, pointed to Harmanpreet’s knowledge of Australia’s bowlers, courtesy her stint at the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), which ultimately helped the Women in Blue plan for the semi-final.
“I think the transformation [has come] after she played in the WBBL,” she said. “That exposure she and Smriti (Mandhana) got by interacting with other players has been massive. As I mentioned in the last press meet, against Australia it was they who were giving us more inputs about these players.”
“If more players are a part of these leagues where they exchange ideas and follow the routine of other players, being part of the meetings, it will only help improve the standard of women’s cricket, as well as it’s very beneficial for youngsters and players from Indian team,” Raj added.
Player-of-the-match Harmanpreet Kaur hit an unbeaten 171 off 115 balls, the second highest score of the tournament.
Only her third ODI century, Harmanpreet Kaur produced an innings of destructive batting, smashing 20 fours and seven sixes, as India set six-time champions Australia 282 to win.
Elyse Villani’s 75 kept Australia above the required run rate but their dreams of making it to a ninth final was lost when she was dismissed, despite the best efforts of Alex Blackwell (90) late on.
For pre-tournament favourites Australia, it meant a second international tournament in a row without silverware despite reaching the knockout rounds in both.
Disappointing finish for Australia
A defeated Meg Lanning cut a solemn figure and the captain believes there’s a lot for Australia to improve on if they’re to achieve more silverware, although they are still waiting on their future with contract discussions on-going between Cricket Australia and Australian Cricketers’ Association.
“It’s definitely a very disappointing finish to the tournament, we came here to win,” said Lanning who was out for nought.
“We’re going to have to look at a few things and see what we’re going to need to do, because all of the teams around the world are improving.
“We’ve got a fair bit of work to do to make sure we keep getting better to make sure we beat sides like England and India.”