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Crunch time

Windies’ captain Merissa Aguilliera seeking to beat England in tonight’s clash.

Windies’ captain Merissa Aguilliera seeking to beat England in tonight’s clash.

West Indies Women’s captain Merissa Aguilliera leads her troops into tonight’s crucial encounter against England knowing that a victory will ensure that they advance to the Super Six stage of the International Cricket Council’s World Cup in India.

But so too is the scenario with England, Sri Lanka and India.

West Indies are in the tricky Group A where all the teams are on two points from two games. While the two sides that win tonight – England play West Indies and Sri Lanka play India as well in Mumbai – will proceed to the Super Six, the final spot will go to the losing team with the better net run-rate.

Sri Lanka’s net run-rate nose-dived after their heavy defeat to West Indies, but their captain Shashikala Siriwardene is hoping to beat India so that her side will not have to depend on the other game’s result. Siriwardene also felt India’s batsmen wouldn’t be as big a headache as Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and company proved to be, given they don’t have the powerful hitters West Indies did.

West Indies batting came to the fore in a big way against Sri Lanka with Taylor making a brilliant century, Dottin butchering her way to a half-century and Aguilliera making a composed score.† The West Indies captain was very pleased with the mammoth 368 runs which her girls put on the board.

“I must say this is a great example of a team effort. The batsmen did extremely well leading us upfront. We had a lot of people getting into the act with the bat. After that we followed up with the ball also. I think it was an all-round performance.” †

Aguilliera is keenly aware that against England a total team effort will be needed and that their batting success cannot always be left up to Taylor and Dottin. But there have been positive signs with the Knight twin, Kycia and Kyshona, also playing well against Sri Lanka.

In all four games played so far in Mumbai, teams have bowled after winning the toss but of those sides, only Sri Lanka ended up victorious, that too, off the last ball against England. India lost to England after asking them to bat.

Sri Lanka have never beaten India in women’s cricket. They hadn’t beaten defending champions England either, until three days ago. No wonder India captain Mithali Raj is wary of Sri Lanka going into their final group game of the tournament, especially given the flat pitch at Brabourne Stadium, which has produced big totals in all but one of six innings so far.

“Next game is a do-or-die game for us and we are not going to take Sri Lanka lightly,” Raj said. “On such a wicket, especially, it could be anybody’s game and they have done well against England.”

Raj said India’s unbeaten record against Sri Lanka wouldn’t make any difference to their approach. “This is a World Cup. We definitely don’t look down upon any team as such. So we are going to take them as another opponent that we need to win against to qualify for the Super Six. That’s our aim now.”

The game between India and Sri Lanka will be played under lights, just like the tournament opener between India and West Indies. The India bowlers got consistent movement, in the air and off the pitch, and the West Indies found batting difficult in the evening.

England captain Charlotte Edwards pointed out that difference between morning and afternoon starts, but Raj was clear what she would do.

“I will [have to] see if we are getting a fresh wicket. If it is the same condition I will still opt to field because the way Jhulan [Goswami] bowled in the first spell [against England], she was brilliant. So I wouldn’t want any other pacer to get that kind of an edge so I will still go for fielding if we win the toss.”

India had stuck early against England, but following a steady century partnership between Edwards and Sarah Taylor, they conceded too many runs in the latter half of the innings. Raj was hopeful of avoiding a repeat of that against Sri Lanka.

“The kind of start the bowlers have given us, getting us the first breakthrough, I only hope that we don’t give away too many runs in the Powerplay or in the last session. That’s where I guess we were a little lost [against England] so probably that wouldn’t be happening in the next game.

“In the last session we seemed a little lost in terms of bowling and [giving away] few boundaries. I guess we will try and minimise the boundaries.”

To achieve that, India could take a look at the way England have tackled the benign conditions.

“I think we have adapted well,” Edwards said. “It is important that we bowl wicket-to-wicket stuff. That is something we have tried to talk about. Any width on these wickets is just a free hit.” †(Cricinfo/WG)††

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