Friday will see the start of the Super Six stage of the Women's World Cup. Each of the six teams will play three more games against the teams that qualified from the other group. This means for example that England, from Group A, have games against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and Australia from Group B, and now the favourites to win the competition as they are the only team to carry through four points, will play England, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
Every game will be crucial to any team that has aspirations of making the final, and it is quite likely that at least one of the finalists will be decided on a net run rate calculation if points are even, which makes every run precious. In this regard England and New Zealand may have a distinct advantage over their rivals as they play the last scheduled game of the Super Sixes, which is a day/night game after the other final round matches have finished. If NRR is a factor they will know what they have to do.
Friday's games are beautifully poised -
England v Australia (live on Sky and Radio 5 Live Sport Extra in the UK)
Sri Lanka v New Zealand
West Indies v South Africa
If England want to be in charge of their own destiny in this competition then they must beat Australia. Winning the toss will be a huge advantage to them and may well be the deciding factor. So far Charlotte Edwards has lost the toss in all three games played. Winning this one could well earn her the player of the match award. Both teams have the seamers to exploit the early morning conditions in Mumbai - England -Brunt (assuming her ankle is OK) and Shrubsole, and Australia - Perry and Schutt. In fact it would not be a great surprise if England were to play seamer Elwiss as well, as spin has not been very effective for them so far. If Australia win then they will have one foot in the final with six points in the bag. They will back themselves to beat either Sri Lanka or West Indies and eight points is all the other teams in the Super Sixes can manage, if they win all their games. This game will probably turn on one key performance, but if I had to put my money anywhere it would be on England and certainly if they win the toss.
Sri Lanka are having a fantastic World Cup and are playing some fine cricket, but I doubt that they have the consistency to win this competition. That is not to say that they could not pull off another surprise and New Zealand may well be their next victim. The White Ferns bowling is not their strength and if the Sri Lankans can post a decent total or restrict the New Zealanders if they bat first, then they could win this game. They will then expect to beat South Africa and six points could put them in the shake-up for a place in the final, subject to other results.
Finally the West Indies take on South Africa, who have little or no chance mathematically of getting into the final, but that will not prevent them from trying to win every game they play, and this could be their best chance of a win. The West Indies are a bit like the French rugby team - you are never quite sure what team is going to turn up. Dottin and Taylor can take a game away from anybody, but you wouldn't want to put your house on them doing so. They thrive on poor bowling, but get found out by good accurate pace bowling. I don't think South Africa will have the bowlers to trouble these two, which could be their downfall. This will be the Super Six game that the West Indies do well in. They may struggle against Australia and New Zealand.
All of which means that, if results go the way I predict, there will be four teams sitting on four points come Friday lunchtime and the pressure will be cranked up another notch.