In the year ahead of the ODI World Cup, T20I might not have been a focal point. But, that didn’t stop the teams from putting on some excellent performances and delivering solid entertaining cricket on the field. A total of 213 T20I matches were played throughout the year with several teams competing against each other. As the year ends, it is time to pick a team of the year in the shortest format.
In order to come up with the T20I XI, we had to shortlist players from only the top eight teams according to the ICC rankings. In 2021, India, South Africa, New Zealand, and England played nine matches each while Australia, Pakistan, West Indies played six games each. Sri Lanka, who continues to hold the no. 8 position in the T20I rankings didn’t play a single game.
With that being said, here is the Women’s CricZone’s T20I Team for the year 2021.
Openers - Smriti Mandhana (C) and Danielle Wyatt
In T20 cricket, having a right-left opening pair is some sort of luxury. Wyatt and Mandhana fit the bill for more than one reason. The two players have good numbers, both averaging above 30 with a strike rate of more than 130. But, they have edged over a few players to get a spot in this line-up. Tammy Beaumont was one player who could’ve been considered, with the most number of fifties this year - three.
But, a deeper look into her figures this year reveals that strike rate significantly falls in games where she is unable to go on and get a big score. Both Wyatt and Mandhana have the ability to not only get big runs but score quickly as well, using the powerplay restrictions nicely to their advantage.
Speaking of their performances in 2021, Wyatt played a fantastic knock of 89 runs from just 56 balls against India in the series decider which helped England get a clinical win. Apart from this, she had four scores in the 30s, each of which were contributions that gave her side fiery starts. On the other hand, Mandhana’s top score of the year also came in the same match as Wyatt’s, when she smashed 70 runs off 51 deliveries. She also had an unbeaten 48 against South Africa which came in a consolation win and a knock of 52 against Australia, as her highlights of the year. The Indian southpaw will also double up as the skipper of our T20 XI.
Middle-order - Beth Mooney, Amy Jones (WK), Laura Wolvaardt
Beth Mooney is one of the two Australians who makes this list on the back of two solid knocks. Her unbeaten 61 against New Zealand in Napier didn't help Australia to a win but she made the same score later in the year against India, which got her team home. She makes this XI at no. 3 and given her ability to bat in the middle overs, she seems to be the right kind of anchor which this team needs.
Amy Jones walks into this team as the wicketkeeper batter for a couple of reasons. Batting in the middle order, especially anywhere from no. 4 to no. 7 seems a difficult job, given the numbers in 2021. Despite that, she shines through with a strike rate of 142.45. Her notable knock was the 27-ball 43 against India which helped her side to victory. Apart from this, she had a couple of 30s during the series against New Zealand, both of which were played at a significant rate and in wins. On top of that, the fact that she was good behind the stumps also plays a part in her getting the no. 5 or no. 6 in this line-up.
The last player who completes this middle-order jigsaw puzzle is 22-year-old Laura Wolvaardt. The stylish batter has been a revelation for South Africa in the T20s. She started 2021 with a 39-ball 53 in a tight run chase against India helping Proteas clinch the series. Later in the year, her unbeaten knocks of 21-ball 35 and 9-ball 33 against West Indies were pleasing to watch, especially the latter one where she hit four sixes. She ended the year with a strike rate of 161, the highest for any batter with a minimum of 100 balls against their name.
All-rounders - Natalie Sciver, Ashleigh Gardner, and Marizanne Kapp
When it comes to all-round skills, Sciver is one of the finest in the world at this moment. In T20 cricket, she is a great option to have in the middle order with the bat. Her 27-ball 55 against India was one of the gems of 2021. She also played a hand of 42 runs which helped England seal the multi-format series. As far as bowling is concerned, she started the year with four wickets in the first two games in New Zealand and managed to pick at least a wicket in eight of the nine games she played, all this while keeping an economy rate of 6.51.
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At no. 7, we have picked Ashleigh Gardner who provides a greater depth to this batting order. Her 48-ball 73 against New Zealand to start the year came in a tricky run-chase when the chips were down and was a treat to watch. Apart from this, her four wickets against India in three games at less than run-a-ball helps her edge over some other players to be the only off-spinner in this unit.
For the last spot in the all-rounder’s category, it is tough to look past Marizanne Kapp. She had an exceptional time in 2021 with the bat and ball for South Africa. She started the year with a match-winning performance against Pakistan where she took figures for 3 for 24 and also made a vital 28 runs with the bat. In the West Indies, she turned up with knocks of 36 and 24 along with a spell of 3 for 31 in one of the matches, which caps off her year.
Bowlers - Sophie Ecclestone, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, and Shabnim Ismail
We went with two left-arm spinners in this team. Ecclestone has been quite sensational to watch in the last couple of years, in terms of operating in middle overs. She started the year picking five wickets in three games in New Zealand at an economy of 4.25. At home later in the year, she had figures of 3 for 35 and 2 for 24 against India. She ended 2021 with a strike rate of 17.9 and an economy of less than six, which helps her deservingly make this unit.
In a year where India didn’t get as many victories as they would have liked, Gayakwad was busy maintaining her consistency with the ball. She started the year with fantastic figures of 3 for 9 from four overs against South Africa. Her form continued in Australia where she picked five wickets in two innings. With a strike rate of 13.3 and an economy similar to that of Ecclestone, one can only imagine how good it will be to watch these two left-arm spinners operate in the middle overs together.
For the last spot, we picked Shabnim Ismail, who continued to be effective with the ball as another year went by. She remains the only specialist seamer in this team, but with Kapp and Sciver in the all-rounder’s category, it does ‘seam’ like quite an unit. Ismail was excellent against Pakistan at home and her 5 for 12 in Durban was one of the more memorable spells of 2021. She also had figures of 2 for 20 in another game against Pakistan and then went on to bowl a spell of 3 for 14 against India, which helped the Proteas win a historic series. Her overall numbers are just too good to be ignored.
The ones who missed out -
As mentioned above, Tammy Beaumont was one of the players whom we had to leave out, unfortunately. Lizelle Lee also had two 70+ scores to make her case, but her inconsistent form finds herself in the honourable mentions. Tazmin Brits also had some runs under her belt but her strike rate put her out of contention. Katherine Brunt had a good year as well but failed to make this list. And so did, Sarah Glenn. Leigh Kasperek was another player who was in contention but Gayakwad and Ecclestone edged past her.