After being put under pressure in their previous two games, India will have no room for error when they take on a formidable England in the Women’s T20 World Cup here on Friday.
A win against world number two England on Friday will take the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side effectively into the knock-out stage, to be competed among top two teams from Group 1 and 2.
The Indians beat arch-rivals Pakistan by seven wickets before notching a more convincing six-wicket win against West Indies earlier this week.
While the twin wins put India in a strong position to qualify for the semifinals, it was hard-hitting teenager Richa Ghosh’s brilliance which pulled the ‘Women in Blue’ over the line on both occasions.
Against England, the top-order will have to give a better account of themselves. U-19 World Cup-winning captain Shafali Verma has been unable to convert her starts in the tournament so far, giving away her wicket at crucial junctures.
Back after nursing a finger injury, Smriti Mandhana looked in imperious touch as she timed the ball to perfection but couldn’t go the distance.
Jemimah Rodrigues will seek some consistency while skipper Kaur has also looked in good touch and has made useful contributions though she has not scored big so far with 33 being her highest.
They will have to navigate England’s spin trio of Charlie Dean, Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn.
While the bowling department put up a much-improved show against West Indies, the Indian bowlers will have to bowl out of their skin against England, who have the likes teenager Alice Capsey, who will head into the match high on confidence after notching the joint-fastest fifty in Women’s T20 World Cup history.
Pooja Vastrakar has been impressive, sharing the new ball duties with Renuka Singh while the ever-reliable Deepti Sharma bowled showcased exemplary death bowling against West Indies.
The fielding too has been patchy, with mis-fields and dropped catch marring some stellar display. India can ill afford the sloppiness against England who are bound punish any mistakes.
On the other hand, firm title contenders England, like India, are also unbeaten after two games and are best-placed to qualify for the semifinals.
On the same points as India (+0.590), Heather Knight and Co. lead the group owing to a superior net run rate of +2.497.
The mix of youth and experience is doing the trick for the former champions with the likes of Capsey and Lauren Bell supporting the experience of Knight, Nat and Katherine Sciver-Brunt and Danni Wyatt.
Teams (from): India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Richa Ghosh, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Devika Vaidya, Radha Yadav, Renuka Thakur, Anjali Sarvani, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Shikha Pandey.
England: Heather Knight (c), Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Alice Capsey, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Katherine Sciver-Brunt, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Lauren Winfield-Hill and Danni Wyatt.
Match starts 6.30 IST.