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Hosts Australia meet India in dream T20 World Cup final

March 06, 2020 14:23 IST
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IMAGE: Harmanpreet Kaur-captained India arrive at the MCG undefeated and without having bowled a ball in the rained-out semi-final against England. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Having won a slew of major trophies on foreign shores, champions Australia will look to triumph in front of home fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday when they meet maiden finalists India in the Women's Twenty20 World Cup decider.

 

Meg Lanning's Australia, long the benchmark in women's cricket, will bid for a record-extending fifth T20 World Cup title after a rocky ride to their sixth final.

Beaten by India in their tournament-opener, Australia lost talismanic all-rounder Ellyse Perry to injury in the quarter-finals and prayed for the rain to clear in Sydney on Thursday before completing their semi-final win over South Africa.

Harmanpreet Kaur-captained India arrive at the MCG undefeated and without having bowled a ball in the rained-out semi-final against England.

For organisers, the final is a dream matchup promising a big crowd at the 100,000-capacity stadium and a TV audience of millions tuning in from cricket-crazy India.

Smriti Mandhana

IMAGE: India opener Smriti Mandhana. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Only about 3,000 fans turned up the last time Australia's women played a global final on home soil, when the hosts beat England for the 1988 one-day World Cup at the MCG.

Former England stalwart Jan Brittin, who played in the match, described the hulking, virtually empty stadium as a "very large and a very lonely place".

Times have changed, and organisers hope Sunday's crowd might better the 90,185 that saw the United States beat China on penalties in the 1999 final of the soccer World Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The Rose Bowl attendance is regarded the biggest ever for a women's sporting event, though the unofficial 1971 Women's World Cup final between Mexico and Denmark in Mexico City has long been credited with an apocryphal crowd estimate of 110,000.

Record or not, cheap tickets for general admission, a favourable weather forecast and entertainment by American pop star Katy Perry will at least ensure a buzzing atmosphere for a decider scheduled on International Women's Day.

The global spread of the coronavirus has seen sports events cancelled or postponed in a slew of countries to try to contain the disease but Australian health authorities are yet to take such measures.

IMAGE: Meg Lanning's Australia will bid for a record-extending fifth T20 World Cup title after a rocky ride to their sixth final. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Australia will hope the MCG curator has prepared a pitch to blunt India's spin bowling, especially after the home batswomen were bamboozled by legspinner Poonam Yadav who took 4-19 in the tournament opener at the Sydney Showgrounds.

"Hopefully they've prepared something (at the MCG) that will suit us a bit more," Australia opener Beth Mooney said.

"The Showground probably wasn't ideal for our batting and bowling.

"But that game is done now. The slate is wiped clean ... it's about who comes to the party on the day."

India have proved a thorn in Australia's side at global tournaments, knocking them out of the semi-finals of the 2017 one-day World Cup and inflicting their only loss during their run to the 2018 T20 World Cup title in the Caribbean.

Inspired by the lead-off firepower of 16-year-old batting sensation Shafali Verma, India may be poised to step out of the shadow of the nation's idolised men's team in a country which has been slow to embrace the women's game.

"We are hoping that we should (win) it because everybody's looking very positive about women's cricket at this moment," said captain Kaur.

Factbox on the seventh Women's Twenty20 World Cup final:

WHEN?

March 8 starting from 6 p.m. local time (1230 IST)

WHERE?

Melbourne Cricket Ground (capacity: 100,024)

AUSTRALIA

T20 World Ranking: 1

Captain: Meg Lanning

Coach: Matthew Mott

Squad: Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes, Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham.

Best previous World Cup performance: Winners (2010, 2012, 2014, 2018)

Road to the final:

Group A

Lost to India by 17 runs, Sydney

Beat Sri Lanka by five wickets, Perth

Beat Bangladesh by 86 runs, Canberra

Beat New Zealand by four runs, Melbourne

Semi-final: Beat South Africa by five runs (D-L), Sydney

INDIA

T20 World Ranking: 4

Captain: Harmanpreet Kaur

Coach: W V Raman

Squad: Harmanpreet Kaur, Taniya Bhatia, Harleen Deol, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Richa Ghosh, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Arundhati Reddy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav.

Best previous World Cup performance: Semi-finals (2009, 2010, 2018)

Road to the final:

Group A

Beat Australia by 17 runs, Sydney

Beat Bangladesh by 18 runs, Perth

Beat New Zealand by three runs, Melbourne

Beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets, Melbourne

Semi-final: v England, match abandoned without a ball bowled due to rain (India advanced as they topped Group A while England were second in Group B)

OVERALL HEAD-TO-HEAD

Matches:             19

Australia wins:   13

India wins:          6

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