The Australia Women’s cricket team are like that big boss in a video game. If you defeat them, glory should be yours, but you need to be at your very best to do so.
India are the only side to inflict defeat on the Southern Stars in any form since September 2021 and even that was via a T20 Super Over. Australia really are one of sport’s most formidable outfits.
They enter this week’s T20 World Cup as defending champions, having won the 2020 edition on home soil. They won the previous tournament before that as well, in the Caribbean in 2018.
Saturday 11th February 12:30pm
Saturday 11th February 4:30pm
Meg Lanning’s group also hold the 50-over World Cup, Ashes and Commonwealth Games titles, meaning they need a cabinet as deep as their squad to house all their prizes.
They are expected to continue the dynasty by making it three T20 World Cup victories in a row in South Africa this month, with an all-Antipodean affair against New Zealand their opening game.
It would be an immense shock if Australia were not in the semi-finals in the last week of February and a surprise if they were not lifting the trophy at Newlands in Cape Town on the final Sunday.
But, in England, they could perhaps meet their match. A new “intimidating and super-aggressive” England who just might take down the big boss. There are plenty of reasons to believe Heather Knight’s team can win the T20 World Cup…
Since Jon Lewis took over as head coach in late November, England have not lost a competitive game. They steamrollered West Indies in the Caribbean in December, winning 8-0 across the formats with three victories in one-day internationals followed by five in T20Is.
England have won 13 of their last 16 T20Is, a run that has included successes against South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and India.
You should perhaps take warm-up results with a pinch of salt but England have also triumphed in two of them this week, piling on 246-7 against South Africa in Stellenbosch before limiting New Zealand to 114-9 from their 20 overs in Cape Town.
Since England finished runners-up to Australia in the 50-over World Cup last spring, their squad has been bolstered by 18-year-old Alice Capsey and Lauren Bell, 22. Two youngsters with a huge future but who are very much delivering right now.
Capsey, earmarked for the top since hitting a fifty in The Hundred on her Lord’s debut in 2021 at the age of 16, has just returned from a broken collarbone but showed no effects of that as she clubbed a 33-ball 61 against South Africa this week from the No 3 spot.
Bell has taken 16 wickets across her last five England matches, using her height – the seamer’s lofty frame has earned her the nickname The Shard – and hooping in-swing to trouble batters.
Lewis swapped the role of England men’s bowling coach for England Women’s head coach in November and immediately challenged his new team to play in the same swashbuckling, Bazball style as his old one. “My job is to take the handbrake off.”
England expressed themselves while breezing past West Indies pre-Christmas – Knight even began one innings in the Caribbean with a reverse-swept four – and then by thrashing runs against South Africa in Monday’s warm-up.
Capsey, Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley seem perfect players for the new policy – Dunkley drummed 59 from 19 balls against South Africa and followed that with a 38-ball 60 versus New Zealand.
The acid test will be whether they can do that against Australia if the sides meet in South Africa, with seamer Kate Cross recently telling Sky Sports: “For us it is not a skill thing, it’s a mindset shift.
“If you put our names and Australia’s names down on paper, I think they are very similar skill-wise, it’s just how we apply ourselves when we are under pressure. I think Lewy (Jon Lewis) is going to free us up more than anything, it almost feels like you can’t fail.”
They have the same aim – propelling England to the T20 World Cup title – and now the same name with Nat and Katherine using their married title Sciver-Brunt going forward.
All-rounder Nat hit hundreds against Australia in both 50-over World Cup meetings in 2022 and Lewis believes she has the ability to “dominate teams”.
She will also have a role to play with the ball as she supports fellow seamers Bell and Katherine Sciver-Brunt and spinners Sophie Ecclestone (more on her in a bit), Sarah Glenn and Charlie Dean.
At 37 years of age, Katherine is probably playing in her final World Cup and will hope to bow out the way Lionel Messi did for Argentina in the men’s football World Cup in December.
England’s leading T20 international wicket-taker of all time – 110 in 107 games at time of writing – has lost none of her energy and enthusiasm and can also give it a wallop with the bat if required.
If you want to beat the best, it helps to have the best and England certainly possess that in Ecclestone, the top-ranked bowler in both T20 international and one-day international cricket.
The left-arm spinner has 86 wickets in 65 T20Is at an average of 16.22 and economy rate under six. On the occasions she is not taking wickets, she can usually be relied upon to keep things tight.
Sky Sports Cricket’s Nasser Hussain said of Ecclestone: “She is incredibly accurate, very tall and very difficult to get after. Being No 1 in the world sits very comfortably with her.
“She is not a massive spinner of the ball but T20 for spinners is a lot about bowling that heavy ball into the pitch, skidding it on and targeting the stumps, bringing lbw and bowled into play.”
It would be no surprise if Ecclestone hoovered up wickets at the World Cup – and hoovered up serious cash at Monday’s IPL auction, at which she has the highest reserve price of £50k.
Watch the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup live on Sky Sports throughout February.
South Africa vs Sri Lanka begins the tournament from 5pm on Friday (4.30pm on air) with England starting on Saturday against West Indies (12.30pm on air, 1pm first ball).