Preview: Women’s World Cup round seven

We know who’s in the top four – Australia, England, India, New Zealand – but not the order. We know that the West Indies will come fifth. And we know that sixth place, crucial for automatic qualification for the next Women’s World Cup, is still open to South Africa, Sri Lanka or Ireland. It’s Sunday April 3, Match Day Seven in the 2005 Women’s Cricket World Cup, the last round before the semi-finals. There’s a 60% chance of thunderstorms in the Pretoria region this afternoon, according to the South African Weather Service. But as long as the storms remain at bay, today’s meetings to determine the final league placings are: Australia v India at Laudium, England v West Indies at Harlequins, Ireland v Sri Lanka at the TUT, and South Africa v New Zealand at the LC de Villiers.

Australia (32 pts) v India (27 pts)

Australia and India have met 21 times with Australia holding a 17-4 advantage, however 3 of those losses came in the 7 match series played in December in India. India won the last two matches of that series, including dismissing Australia in the final match for 77, their equal lowest score in ODIs.

In World Cup competition, Australia and India have met 7 times with Australia winning all 7.

Karen Rolton is Australia’s highest run scorer against India with 463 while Fitzpatrick is the highest wicket-taker with 15. The highest score by an Australian v India is 98 by Jill Kennare in 1982 while the best bowling figures are 4/19 by Lisa Keightley in 2004.

In the current squads, Australia has three of the world’s current top 10 run scorers – Belinda Clark 4670 (1st), Karen Rolton 3175 (3rd) and Lisa Keightley 2294 (6th) – while India has two: Mithali Raj 1731 (9th) and Anju Jain 1689 (10th). Of the leading wicket-takers, Australia has two of the top 10 – Cathryn Fitzpatrick 143 (1st) and Karen Rolton 69 (9th) – while India has one – Neetu David 100 (=2nd).

If there’s a reason why Australia is not figuring frequently in the leading run-scorer lists in this World Cup, it is because few of the players have had much batting practice, such has been the size of the targets Australia has been chasing. Their big challenge comes today as they face the best bowling attack of the World Cup. Meanwhile, India’s classy batting lineup of Chopra, Jain and Raj will face an experienced armoury including Fitzpatrick, Rolton and the 2005 Belinda Clark Medallist, Julie Hayes.

The most likely scenario, based on predictions of today’s results, is that Australia will meet India twice in three days – the second of those being Tuesday’s first semi-final. Washouts today would keep them apart again until the final.

England (23 pts) v West Indies (16 pts)

England have injury worries with Charlotte Edwards (thigh) and Lucy Pearson (shin), and significantly, they have not beaten any of the other top-four teams in this World Cup. Whatever happens today, the West Indies will head home with the knowledge that they are the fifth-best women’s cricket team in the world. Maybe prospective sponsors will start paying attention.

Historically, England and the West Indies have only met once in World Cup play, a four-wicket win to the home side at Arundel Castle in 1993. The two wicketkeepers that day, Stephanie Power and Jane Smit, are back in action today. It should be noted that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago fielded their own teams in the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1973.

New Zealand (26 pts) v South Africa (9 pts)

Before the World Cup began, this match would have been seen as one of the marquee games of the tournament. Not any more. South Africa has won just one game, and that by one run. South Africa need at least one point from this game if they are to make certain of avoiding the dreaded seventh position. New Zealand will be seeking second place, which should enable them to avoid Australia in the semi-finals.

Historically, South Africa and New Zealand have met just once in World Cup play, Emily Drumm scoring 108 not out in a 158-run New Zealand victory at Lincoln Green in 2000. The two teams had previously met in a three-match ODI series in New Zealand in 1999, won easily by the home side 3-0.

Sri Lanka (8 pts) v Ireland (3 pts)

Sri Lanka’s 32-run victory at the TUT Oval on Friday was a massive embarrassment for the host nation, but if Sri Lanka can beat Ireland today it will give them a two-match winning streak that they can aim for adding to in 2009. They will be looking to finish in sixth spot ahead of South Africa and thus avoid having to go through qualifying. Ireland have no hope of finishing in the final six barring an extraordinary shift in net run-rates. The only nation that has Test status in women’s cricket and not in men’s is in danger of flying home from South Africa without a win. Irish national broadcaster RTE proudly announced on March 23 that Ireland had gained its first points of the Women’s World Cup – from the washout against South Africa. If their website is anything to go by, they haven’t even mentioned the World Cup since.

Sri Lanka beat Ireland by ten runs at Lincoln Green in 2000 for their only previous meeting in women’s international cricket.

(Bronwyn Calver contributed to the Australian preview in this report.)

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