Women’s T20 World Cup: a guide to the 10 teams in South Africa
It’s sink or swim time for the new head coach, Jon Lewis, who – like Lisa Keightley and Mark Robinson before him – finds himself faced with the test of a World Cup only a few months into his new role. The series against West Indies revealed some of his thinking: the 22-year-old seamer Lauren Bell is almost certain to take the new ball. On the other hand, precisely what role Katherine Sciver-Brunt will play in her swansong World Cup remains to be seen.
Key player: Alice Capsey. By some miracle, the 18-year-old has recovered from surgery in December to mend a broken collarbone. Cue sighs of relief all round – the right-handed batter is going to be central to England’s new aggressive strategy.
What to say about a team who have won every World Cup since 2017, plus gold in the Commonwealth Games? Clearly, they are the favourites by miles. Perhaps the one unknown is how they will fare in South African conditions, given that (bizarrely) Australia have never played a series there. Watch out for newbies Kim Garth (formerly of Ireland) and Heather Graham, who took a hat-trick against India in December just days after making her international T20 debut.
Key player: Meg Lanning, Mark II. Back at the helm after a five-month absence last year for mental health reasons, has the skipper rediscovered her mojo?
Winless in the past three T20 World Cups, but their U19s pulled off a shock result in the opening match of the U19 T20 World Cup, beating Australia by seven wickets. Three of those players are called up for the senior tournament – Marufa Akter, Dilara Akter and Disha Biswas – and they will be hoping for a similar upset.
Key player: Nigar Sultana. The wicketkeeper was Bangladesh’s leading run-scorer in 2022 and led them to a seven-run win against Ireland in the final of the qualifying tournament for this World Cup in September.
“It’s time to win the senior World Cup now,” Shafali Verma told Richa Ghosh after the pair helped seal India’s triumph against England in the final of the inaugural U19 tournament last weekend. India were the only side to beat Australia in any match in the whole of 2022, winning a super-over thriller in Mumbai in December, so maybe Verma is right? Confidence is everything …
Key player: Renuka Singh Thakur. The ICC’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year for 2022 knows how to unsettle the Aussies, as she proved in the opening match of the Commonwealth Games when the seam bowler had them 34 for four before anyone could blink.
This is Ireland’s first World Cup since 2018 and they will want put on a good show. A young side – average age 24 – on the up, encouraged by the introduction of full-time central contracts by Cricket Ireland for seven players in March 2022, and their inclusion in this cycle of the ICC Women’s Championship. Fresh from a historic T20 series win against Pakistan in November.
Key player: Gaby Lewis remains the only Irish woman ever to have scored a century in T20 internationals (against Germany in 2021) – her runs will be vital.
After a disappointing sixth-place finish in their home World Cup last year, New Zealand will be aiming to achieve a better result this time. There is excitement about the return of wicketkeeper-batter Bernadine Bezuidenhout, who has spent the last two years away from the game dealing with insomnia and an eating disorder. If their warmup series against England is anything to go by, she will be somewhere near the top of the order, alongside superstar Suzie Bates.
Key player: Sophie Devine. The skipper has been struggling with a foot stress fracture – it’ll be a huge blow for the Kiwis if she isn’t passed fit to play in time for their tournament opener.
Resoundingly beaten by Australia in three ODIs and two T20s, Pakistan may be a bit demoralised. But the return of head coach, Mark Coles, who did wonders with the team from 2017 to 2019, is a stroke of good fortune. Let’s see if he can turn things around again.
Key player: Nida Dar. She may be 36, but “Lady Boom-Boom” (as she terms herself due to her admiration for Shahid Afridi) has still got some firepower in the tank. With quick bowler Diana Baig ruled out with a fractured finger, her off-spin will also be more important than ever.
Controversy earlier this week when it emerged that South Africa had omitted their captain and star all-rounder, Dane van Niekerk, from their squad, after she had failed a 2km time-trial by 18 seconds. Should they not reach the semi-finals of their home World Cup, fingers will be pointed at the coach, Hilton Moreeng, whose fitness requirement is “non-negotiable”.
Key player: Marizanne Kapp was her side’s standout performer in the 2022 World Cup, with 203 runs and 12 wickets. The drawback? She happens to be married to Van Niekerk and was granted “compassionate leave”. Whether she will be in the right frame of mind to perform at her best on her return to the squad is an open question.
It’s been a tough few years for Sri Lanka, after their board failed to arrange any international cricket for them between March 2020 and January 2022, using Covid as a handy excuse. But they beat Bangladesh and Pakistan during October’s Asia Cup, and – even more excitingly – chased down a target of 139 against a full-strength India last June. Have they turned a corner?
Key player: Harshitha Samarawickrama. She was Sri Lanka’s highest run-scorer at the Asia Cup (202 runs), including hitting 81 off 69 balls against Thailand. They may finally have found their next Chamari Athapaththu.
A case study of what happens when you win a World Cup and then fail to capitalise on it. You have to feel for the captain, Hayley Matthews, who was player of the match in the 2016 final and is now being forced to bravely talk up a team who are consistently being smashed by better-resourced opponents. Could be a tough tournament for her and her side.
Key player: Stafanie Taylor. Has been out of international cricket since September nursing a back injury, but the hope is she will return stronger and offer Matthews the backup she so desperately needs.