Tomorrow sees the final of the Women's WT20 2014 between Australia and England, as many would have predicted before the start of the tournament, but progression to the final has not been straightforward for either team.
The Aussies lost their first encounter of the tournament to New Zealand by 7 runs, after they failed to chase down 128 scored by the Kiwis. Only Alyssa Healy (41) and Alex Blackwell (31) made any credible effort with the bat. The Aussies were bowled out for 121 in the 20th over. Comfortable wins over South Africa and Ireland followed with Ellyse Perry (41*) top-scoring against the Proteas and Meg Lanning helping herself to a world record 126 against a very young Irish side.They concluded their group campaign with another thumping win, this time over Pakistan - Elyse Villani (90*), and Lanning (50) again, the main beneficiaries. In the semi-final they batted first against West Indies and set them 140 with contributions from Villani (35), Healy (batting down the order) (30*) and Lanning (29) and managed a win by eight runs. Jess Jonassen opened in this game and Ellyse Perry batted at 4. The Aussie batting unit is not at its best at the moment with Jess Cameron struggling, Villani rather hit and miss (quite literally) and the Aussies not quite sure what their best batting line-up is.
As for England they started with a rather lame defeat to West Indies, when they failed to chase down 134 to win. Part-time bowler Deandra Dottin picked up 4/12 (she only bowled 3 more overs in the competition), as only Charlotte Edwards (44), got to grips with the Bangladeshi conditions. But from there on they improved, particularly with the ball, restricting India to 95/9, Bangladesh to 58/9 and Sri Lanka to 85/9. In the semi-final South Africa managed to score 101, but only after being 33/5. In all the games (except the West Indies) Anya Shrubsole has taken early wickets (2/25, 3/6, 2/17, 3/9 and 2/12). She has been backed up by a miserly Dani Hazell and good containment and wickets for Becky Grundy. Jenny Gunn, Nat Sciver, Georgia Elwiss and Jodie Dibble have then picked up the other 8 overs with varying degrees of success. In the semi-final England only played five bowlers - Shrubsole, Hazell, Grundy, Gunn and Sciver and skipper Charlotte Edwards resorted to bowling herself for one over after Sciver took some tap - not a scenario that England really want to repeat in the final.
I hope England will go back to six bowlers for the final with Elwiss again coming in for Beaumont. The rest of the side looks pretty settled. As for the Aussies I think they will persist with Jonassen as one of their openers, just because she is left-handed. They need to negate Shrubsole's wicket-taking ability and she is much less likely to bowl left-handers than she is right, with her hooping inswingers. If the plan is just to survive Shrubsole then I do not think they will open with Villani. She plays much too freely to be relied upon to survive. Their options then would be to go back to Healy, who has had a pretty good tournament with the bat, or even bring in another left-hander in Nicole Bolton (but she has yet to play in this tournament). I think they will stick with Healy and put Villani down the order. They will look to survive Shrubsole, negotiate Hazell and then score off the rest of the bowlers. If England can make early in-roads then they will fancy their chances against the Aussie middle-order.
As for England's batting Edwards and Taylor have been in pretty good nick and Heather Knight seems to have at last found her feet again. Lydia Greenway and Nat Sciver have not been at their best, but Greenway is a big game player and very little seems to rattle Sciver. One of the top four really needs to step up to the plate in the final. The Aussie bowling attack is consistent without being too threatening. England will need to avoid getting themselves out (including run outs!).
The pressure will be on the Aussies, who will expect to win. For England, with a relatively young and inexperienced side missing some big names, making the final has been a bonus. I think they can go on and win it, if they can handle the pressure, but it could be another nail-biter.