After a cliffhanger between hosts New Zealand and the West Indies that had us sitting at the edge of our seats throughout, we are in for yet another treat this Saturday as cricket's oldest rivalry is set to take center stage, with six-time champions Australia taking on defending champions England.
Having lost only two out of 33 ODIs since the 2017 World Cup, Australia are looking as invincible as ever and will be raring to put the disappointment of the 2017 edition behind them.
The Australia and England rivalry has a rich history and is arguably the greatest in world cricket. But it is highly lopsided in favour of the women in green and gold. In the 81 games that they have played against each other, Australia have emerged victorious in 55 matches, while England have won only 22. Three games have yielded no result and one has been a tied affair.
Even in World Cups, Australia have the wood on their arch-rivals and certainly tend to enjoy playing against them. Both sides have crossed swords with each other 17 times in the global event, with Australia crossing the line 11 times and England winning only four. One game ended in a tie and the other yielded no result.
Although the stats favour the Aussies, the six-time champions have been dealt a massive blow in the form of Ashleigh Gardner. The star all-rounder tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the tournament and is set to miss this game and the clash against Pakistan on March 8.
Gardner is one of the most impactful all rounders Australia have and hence the Aussies are certainly going to miss her badly. England, on the other hand, will be relieved with the news as she had just hammered a half-century at lightning-quick speed against the Windies in one of the warm-up games.
Barring the recent drubbing they suffered at the hands of Australia, England have been playing consistently well and will enter the tournament as one of the favourites by the sheer weight of their performances.
The last time they lost a bilateral series before the Ashes was back in February 2019, when they lost to India 2-1 in a three-match ODI series in India. Since then, they had won six ODI series on the trot before their recent hammering in Australia.
The four-time champions have a potent bowling attack that can make good use of the conditions on offer in New Zealand. Led by their spearhead Katherine Brunt, England have a balanced bowling attack that also comprises Sophie Ecclestone, who has emerged as one of the biggest match-winners in recent times.
Ecclestone has 746 rating points to her credit and is currently occupying the second spot in the ICC ODI rankings, second only to Jess Jonassen. In addition to Ecclestone, England also have two other bowlers in the top-ten in Brunt and Kate Cross. But they have their task cut out, as they will have to defeat Australia's formidable unit that doesn't have a lot of flaws on paper.
Another thing that goes in favour of the defending champions is the fact that they registered comfortable wins in both their warm-up matches. They vanquished Bangladesh by 109 runs in their first warm-up game before easing past South Africa in their second game by six wickets.
Australia trounced the West Indies by 90 runs in their first warm-up game but were humbled by the hosts, New Zealand, in their second game.
What they said:
“Alyssa has shown over her career that in big games, she steps up and World Cups are tournaments that she plays extremely well in, so I expect the same from her throughout. She's a big game player and she's very important to us,"
– Meg Lanning on the importance of Alyssa Healy.
“The nature of World Cups is they're one-off games and quite often they get quite close. For my own nerves, hopefully, it's not super close out there tomorrow, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was,"
– Anya Shrubsole on playing in World Cups and the clash against Australia.
Players to watch out for:
Meg Lanning: The skipper of the Aussie side, Lanning is also Australia's batting mainstay. She is one of the best batters going around in the world at the moment. Her record speaks for itself, in 91 games she has scored 4069 runs at a staggering average of 52.84. Lanning provides a lot of solidity in the middle-order and creates an environment where the batters around her feed off her energy. She had a poor outing in the recently culminated ODI series against England and would want to make amends.
Heather Knight: Lanning's counterpart, Knight, is arguably the best batter for England in the middle-order. She is the focal point of England's batting and possesses the capability to shift gears according to the demands of the situation. Just like Lanning, she too didn't have a good outing recently. And therefore the game against the arch-rivals presents her the opportunity to unleash the batting maestro in her and take her side off to a flying start.
Head to head in World Cups: Played 17 matches, Australia 11 – 4 England
Overall: Played 81 matches, Australia 55 - 22 England
- Ellyse Perry has recorded the best bowling figures in Australia vs England ODI history. She claimed seven for 22 in her ten overs at Canterbury on July 7, 2019.
- Meg Lanning is one of the three players who have scored the most hundreds in Australia and England clashes. She has scored two so far and shares the record with two fellow Aussies in Lisa Keightley and Jill Kennare.
Australia: Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy (wk), Meg Lanning (c), Ellyse Perry, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Annabel Sutherland, Nicola Carey, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Megan Schutt
England: Lauren Winfield Hill, Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Amy Jones (wk), Sophia Dunkley, Danielle Wyatt, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross, Anya Shrubsole