Defending champions Windies look the most complete unit

Ananya Upendran
New Update
Defending champions Windies look the most complete unit

Windies Team. ©ICC

Much like the match between India and Australia in Group B, the Group A clash between Windies and England may have been a dead rubber— with both teams having already qualified for the semifinal— but was crucial in order to decide who would finish at the top of the table. Close to two weeks into the Women’s World Twenty20, the tournament had seen almost everything— big scores (both individual and team), massive sixes, tearaway quicks, deadly spinners, batting collapses, brilliant run-outs, unbelievable catches, and even a hat-trick. If the tournament had been missing something, it was a closely fought match.

On Sunday (November 18), at a packed Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St. Lucia, Windies and England delivered the first nail-biter of the tournament.

Put in to bat, England stuttered their way through the innings— losing wickets at regular intervals upfront, until Sophia Dunkley and Anya Shrubsole stitched together a record 58-run partnership for the seventh-wicket to take the team to some respectability: 115 for 8. Dunkley, in her first international innings, showed good awareness through her knock— playing the field well, running hard between the wickets and trying to keep the game moving forward. Shrubsole, on the other hand, played the role of the calm senior partner through their association. She was positive, constantly looking to score, but made sure to hit along the ground, until she was ready to swing for the stands.

With the ball too, Shrubsole set the tone for England with easily the best display of swing bowling at this edition of the tournament. She dismissed Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor to put Windies back under pressure. Momentum shifted regularly through the Windies innings, and finally towards the end of the game, as the wheels began to fall off for England— courtesy dropped catches and sloppy keeping— the hosts held their nerve to pull off a stunning four wicket win. Kycia Knight, the left-hand batter, struck a powerful square drive off Shrubsole to seal the victory with three balls to spare.

The win means Windies finish at the top of Group A, and go through the league stages unbeaten. They will face Australia in the first semifinal, while England will take on India on November 23 in Antigua.

Windies have, so far, looked the most complete team in the tournament. They have been tested through the course of the group phase, in every aspect, and have come out on top in all four matches. In their first two games against Bangladesh and South Africa, their bowling and fielding coming to the fore as they defended small totals. In both those matches, after a top order collapse, the low order scrapped to take the team to defendable totals. In the third match against Sri Lanka, the Windies top order finally hit their stride. The senior players of Deandra Dottin, Taylor and Matthews pulled their weight to make sure they registered a comfortable win. In the final game, they had to deal with the pressure of a chase against a quality bowling attack, and they came out the other end with flying colours.

“We have that never-say-die attitude and going into this match (against England) and coming out of it as well,” said Dottin, after her team’s five-wicket win over England.“It’s good to win close games because … to know how it feels, but the tension was, it wasn't really any tension on our side. We just had the support so the girls were pretty good.”

Buoyed by the support of the home crowd, Taylor’s team have upped their game to put together some brilliant performances under pressure. They have one of the most balanced bowling attacks among the four semifinalists, with swing and seam bowlers, a legspinner, and two high quality offspinners. That Anisa Mohammed, the highest wicket-taker in T20Is, hasn’t been able to make the XI, shows the quality and depth of the Windies attack.

In the field too, they are one of the most athletic sides— quick across the ground with powerful, and very accurate arms— and it is this that makes their bowling feel even more potent, putting teams under pressure from the very start.

“There's never a doubt in the bowling department that if we put up 90 runs that we can't come and put up a good fight,” Taylor had said after the win over South Africa. “And looking at how we played in Guyana and here, we do have a good bowling unit.”

Having struggled with the bat through the start of the tournament, Windies seem to have finally found their mojo. A power-packed line-up with the likes of Dottin, Matthews, Taylor, Natasha McLean and Brittney Cooper in the ranks, they have the ability to go berserk— as they showed against Sri Lanka— on their day. It is just about giving them time to settle in and assess the pitch before going all guns blazing.

Dottin led the way with a measured knock against England. “I think I was quite sensible about it. I'm more responsible and smart. I think that's what made the difference,” she said.

Windies have ticked most boxes heading into their semifinal against Australia on Thursday. The players are confident of executing their skills under pressure, they have enjoyed each other’s successes, have all their plans in place, and know they are capable of beating anyone any time. They are eager to prove that the triumph in 2016 was not a flash in the pan, and where better to do it than in front of a loud, enthusiastic and loving home crowd.