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WWC 2017, IND v AUS, Semifinal, Preview: India brace for Australia challenge in their first semis in 12 years

India faces a big hurdle of playing Australia in the semifinals.

India women
Sushma Verma clicks a victory selfie with her India teammates. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Mithali Raj will lead India for the second time in a semifinal, the last one being in 2005. Only she and Jhulan Goswami are the survivors of that side which went on to play the finals. Raj, now, leads a very young and vibrant team which made headlines for winning the first four games of this tournament on the bounce.

A minor stutter was seemingly inevitable. After losing two, they faced the threat of being knocked out in the first round but the team showed great resilience by winning a crucial game against the Kiwis by a huge margin of 186 runs to qualify for the semifinals. India faced Australia just two games ago and will be better prepared after the learnings of their thrashing defeat last week. Mithali Raj’s promotion to her regular No. 3 spot has brought rich dividends to India. Rajeshwari Gayakwad’s penetrating spell of left-arm spin bowling derailed the Kiwis chase. Playing in her first game in this World Cup, Gayakwad returned with career best figures of 5/15 and is an automatic choice for this game.

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Australia will be wary of this resurgent India side though they beat them convincingly last Wednesday by 8 wickets. Meg Lanning’s shoulder injury is at the cynosure leading up to this high-profile encounter. She missed the last game and chances of her making it in time for this one are seemingly bleak. Rachael Haynes, who has played just two games in this tournament, will lead the side in case Lanning forceful has to sit out. Australia has all bases covered and look favourites to win this clash.

Toss: India Women won the toss and opted to bat

Meg Lanning: It wasn’t a bad toss to lose. I wasn’t very sure about what we wanted to do. 42 isn’t much different, which is good. Had a few extra hours resting as well in the dressing room in the rain break. The past doesn’t make much of a difference, it is a fresh start. Only one change – me coming in place of Haynes.

Mithali Raj: We choose to bat first. The rain hasn’t affected the pitch and the square. We have played four games in the league here and the girls are used to the conditions well. Always nice to have a home crowd supporting us. The girls are ready and confident; this is the first time we’ve made it to the semis in seven years. We are unchanged from the last game.

Playing XI:

Australia Women: Beth Mooney, Nicole Bolton, Meg Lanning(c), Ellyse Perry, Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell, Alyssa Healy(w), Ashleigh Gardner, Jess Jonassen, Megan Schutt, Kristen Beams

India Women: Smriti Mandhana, Punam Raut, Mithali Raj(c), Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Veda Krishnamurthy, Sushma Verma(w), Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav

Focus will be on:

Ellyse Perry

Perry has been in magnificent form scoring five consecutive half century in this tournament. She has achieved this feat for the third time in her 10-year long international career thereby becoming the first cricketer on this planet to achieve this landmark. She has managed to account for 9 wickets from 7 games with her medium pace which is very effective in the middle overs. With Lanning’s participation in this game under a cloud, Perry will have to step up in the star batswoman’s absence. The 26-year old can break the record of most consecutive fifties by a female cricketer if she manages to score two more half centuries.

Deepti Sharma

Deepti was declared as a prodigy much before she made her state debut. After posting scores of 78 and 60 off consecutive games, Deepti was sent back in the middle order to accommodate Mithali Raj at No. 3. Only 19, Deepti doesn’t play the big shots too often maybe due to the lack of strength in her young body. She is a forceful operator with her off-spinners in the middle overs and has so far accounted for 9 victims in 7 games at an impressive economy rate of 4.35. Deepti will have to play enterprising cricket with the bat when she gets her chance and not get bogged down by the occasion and magnitude of this crunch game.

Team Combinations

India

Despite her five successive failures, Smriti Mandhana will open the innings alongside Punam Rawat with skipper Mithali at No.3. Harmeet Kaur, Deepti Sharma and the explosive Veda Krishnamurthy will make the middle order of India which can shuffle as per the situation of the game. Sushma Verma will be the incumbent wicket-keeper who will bat at No. 7 or 8. All-rounder Shikha Pandey will open the bowling alongside Jhulan Goswami. Rajeshwari Goswami is expected to keep Ekta Bisht out of the side after a splendid display of loopy left-arm spin the other day. Poonam Yadav will be the third spinning option for India.

Australia

Beth Mooney and Nicole Bolton are expected to walk out to open the innings for the defending champions. The status of Lanning’s injury is still not official but she will be desperate to participate in this clash. She will bat at her favourite slot No. 3. Ellyse Perry is an automatic choice at No. 4 followed by her namesake Elyse Vilanind Alex Blackwell. Alyssa Healy will be the wicket-keeper batsman and is a capable striker of the cricket ball later in the innings. Kirsten Beams, Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner are expected to be the spinning partners in this game. Megan Schutt will the lone specialist seam bowling option for Australia.

Stat Attack

1 – run required by Meg Lanning to complete 3,000 runs in WODI. She will be the fourth Australian and 12th overall women’s cricketer to achieve this feat.

1 – Fifty required by skipper Mithali to complete 50 WODI fifties. She will be the first female cricketer to achieve this landmark.

5 – Runs required by Jhulan Goswami to record 1,000 WODI runs

83 – runs required by Smriti Mandhana to complete 1,000 WODI runs. India will be delighted if she achieves this landmark in this significant clash.

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