Wednesday, 9 March 2016

New Zealand the in-form team heading into WWT20

So here is the up-to-date WCB IT20 Standings as the teams go into the WWT20 starting on 18th March, including all games played up to 9th March.

No I didn’t believe it either, but New Zealand really are top of the table AND they really are that many points ahead of England and Australia. I have checked lots of times. There are actually numerous reasons why they are top of the tree – Australia and England have not been too flash at T20 cricket of late (Australia have lost their last three T20 series and lost six of their last nine games); New Zealand have won eight of their last eleven games, including wins over England and Australia; and for some reason New Zealand played only 11 T20s between 1 March 2012 and 1 March 2014, which means they have only played 32 T20 games in the last four years compared with England’s 46 and Australia’s 44, so their recent form has a much greater impact on their current standing.

So does that make them favourites for the WWT20? Well the realistic answer is that they have as good a chance as Australia and England, the perennial favourites for these competitions, but also probably just as much chance as India, West Indies or South Africa. This really is the hardest WWT20 to call that there has ever been. Below I have previewed the teams’ chances, based on form, but there is one imponderable which I think might affect the tournament and who goes on to win it, and that is injury. 

For many of the top players the last few months have been jam-packed with cricket, as teams squeeze in ICCWC ODI fixtures, plus the almost obligatory three T20s. The Aussies have played an Ashes series against England, followed by a home series against India and no sooner were they back from New Zealand than they were on the plane to India. In between the entire squad has been involved in the WBBL, as have several of the England, New Zealand, West Indian and South African players. South Africa themselves have finished their latest series (against West Indies) today, which followed swiftly behind England's tour there too. Don't get me wrong I have no problem with plenty of cricket, but it does take it's toll. There will be many players carrying injuries into the tournament or having just recovered from injuries. I expect there may well be more during the tournament and if you lose a key player, then your fortunes can change rapidly. But aside from that caveat it looks like being a great tournament.

Group A
Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Ireland

Australia expect to win. In fact most of the cricketing world expect Australia to win, but I just have this nagging doubt about this side and about the balance of their team. They did not perform that well against England last summer, then lost 2-1 to India at home and then by the same score to New Zealand away just a few days ago. They are struggling to nail down a decent opening partnership, they are relying far too much on Lanning and Perry to get runs and their bowling looks light. It has been a long haul for the Aussie girls since the English summer, including a full-on WBBL and I think this may be a tournament too far.

Antipodean rivals New Zealand will be looking to steal the Aussies’ crown.  After a couple of lacklustre years, including the failure to make the semi-finals of the last WWT20, New Zealand, under charismatic coach Haidee Tiffen, are once again punching above their weight on the international scene.  They seem to have a bit more self-belief now and if skipper Suzie Bates can keep her recent form going they will be tough to beat. But they do have bad days. And when they are bad they are very very bad. Can they string together the five or six wins on the trot that they need? They just might.

South Africa surprised everyone, including themselves, by making the semi-final of the 2014 WWT20. It was a great achievement and the fact that they froze in the semi-final against England was no surprise. Their recent series against England and the West Indies in South Africa shows that that cup run was no flash in the pan. Within their squad they have match-winners in van Niekerk, Lee, du Preez, Kapp and Luus, but their squad is thin. I expect them to win some big games, but possibly lose some they should win. If you want an outside bet though...

Sri Lanka and Ireland will not make it to the semi-finals, but Ireland could well win their first WWT20 match when the two sides meet. Sri Lanka are in a horrible slump of form at the moment. They have lost their last eight T20 games and in truth have never looked like winning any of them. Ireland won the WWT20 Qualifying Tournament in December, just pipping Bangladesh (their fellow qualifiers) in the final. They have great spirit in their team and it may be enough to get them a very precious two points.

Group B
England, West Indies, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Playing at home and coming off the back of a T20 series win against the Aussies in Australia, plus a drubbing of a rather forlorn Sri Lanka, India are on a high. Things could go one of two ways it seems for them – they could either live up to their own, and the whole of India’s expectations and win the thing, or they could crash and burn. They should get off to a good start as they play Bangladesh on the opening day of the tournament, but their clashes with England (22nd March) and the West Indies (27th March), will decide if they make it through to the semi-finals. If they can make it there then their young stars – Smriti Mandhana, Shika Pandey, Anuja Patil and Veda Krishnamurthy,amongst others, may prove fearless enough to get them into the final, although it may have to be at the expense of tournament favourites Australia, which may be a big ask.

England lack consistency over the last couple of years. This tournament has come too early for new Head Coach Mark Robinson to have had any great influence over the outcome for his new team, but a new positive attitude with the bat looks certain. The South Africa tour proved that sometimes it comes off and sometimes it does not. There is no doubt that England have players capable of winning T20 games – Taylor, Knight, Jones, Shrubsole, Brunt – but the question is can they? England look a bit light in the spin-bowling department, with Knight now Charlotte Edwards go-to spin bowler it seems. If England make it out of the group then they are in with a shout.

The West Indies have a remarkably poor record in T20s over the last couple of years. They have only won seven out of the 25 they have played in that time. They have also managed to tie three of those games, which is quite a feat. They have class in Stafanie Taylor, and Deandra Dottin seems to be coming back into some sort of form after a couple of years in the wilderness following her ban, but these two need some back-up. They are a team capable of winning, but they lack a cutting edge.

Pakistan have had a torrid run into the tournament due to security issues in India. At the time of writing they have still yet to get to India, and it has been confirmed they will miss their first warm-up game with New Zealand scheduled for Thursday, and maybe even the warm-up against South Africa on Saturday. Their current T20 form is not that bad and they are a potential banana skin for the big three, but with little or no practice before the tournament they are clearly at a huge disadvantage.

Bangladesh have only beaten Ireland and Sri Lanka in their last 13 games, and lost narrowly to Ireland in the WWT20 Qualifier final. They should not trouble the big boys, but will be keen to get one over on Pakistan if they can.

So the warm-up games start tomorrow and the tournament itself kicks off on next Tuesday (15th March). Some of the group games are being televised as will be the semi-finals and the final. If the tournament can step out of the huge shadow of the men's tournament into the media spotlight, then it should be a great event.



  1. New Zealand being top of the iT20 rankings is entirely believable to me. It's no surprise. They are there on merit after a long run of solid performances and very few poor ones. They're a strong and consistent T20 outfit with some impressive players. Their entire top order - Bates, Priest, McGlashan, Satterthwaite and Devine are all powerful batters capable of big innings. It's rare for at least one or two of them not to fire. Their bowling has the experience of the likes of Bermingham, and with the recent performances of Kasparek they have an off-spin bowler who is in prime form.

    The most convincing argument I've heard as to why Australia may be favourites for the title relies on 2 key factors: that the conditions will suit them, and that they tend to find their best form when the stakes are highest. On flat wickets without much to offer the bowlers, as we expect to find in India, the Aussies may be in their element. Their batsmen can hit through the ball without worrying about undue movement and their bowlers can focus on lines and lengths. And under pressure, we may see all the other sides crumble whilst the experience of many of the Australian players like Lanning, Blackwell and Perry remains firm.

    But having said that, you are correct in that they have not been too convincing in T20 recently. Their main problem seem to be posting decent totals when put in to bat first. They seem to end up batting first a lot, only managing to scrape together 120 or so, and it may be an idea to chase for a change when given the choice.

    England will be looking to build on their positive batting approach seen in the recent series against South Africa. Edwards and Taylor look capable as ever, and players like Jones, Knight and Elwiss are looking calm and classy in their new roles. The bowling is more of an issue for England and let's hope they can get Brunt back, and find the best spin pairings and bowling plans & tactics for the later stages. Their fielding also needs urgent refinement. It would be a shame to see 140-150+ scores go to waste due do sloppy displays in the field.

    England's bowling woes are highlighted by a comparison between their performances and those of WI against SA. West Indies are not especially reknowned for their amazing bowling attack, and yet they performed much better against SA than England's did. In the ODI matches West Indies bowlers performed marginally better and attained the same series result, a 2-1 win. In T20 though the comparison is remarkable - over the course of 3 T20i innings, England conceded 408 runs at a rate of 7.2 per over. They took only 13 wickets. The comparison for WI was conceding just 342 runs at 5.9 per over, whilst taking 19 wickets. And they lost the series 2-1 whilst England won 2-1! Even if you take into account England batting better in reply, and SA playing a bit better against England than WI, this seems strange. England will need to stem the flow of runs, and take many more wickets if they are to succeed in the T20i world cup, because the batting will not always come off.

    1. "Edwards and Taylor look capable as ever, and players like Jones, Knight and Elwiss are looking calm and classy in their new roles" - Elwiss was dropped for the 3rd T20 in SA !

    2. Yeah, go figure...she might not even play, but I think she has a lot more to offer.

  2. Unpredictable England will be unpredictable by winning it !

  3. Four thoughts from this Kiwi:

    - I *hope* you are right about New Zealand! The White Ferns certainly have hitting power, but it's heavily concentrated at the top of the batting order. Depth is a worry for me.
    - South Africa are a rapidly improving team. If I was a South African selector, the first name on my team sheet would be Shabnim Ismail, which is not to decry any of the other players you've mentioned. She has real pace, and it's the sort of skiddy pace that may be especially effective in India.
    - I watched the two recent NZ v Australia T20Is at the Basin Reserve, where the Aussies both times failed to post 120 and were beaten, albeit in relatively close finishes, after Suzie bates anchored each chase. What struck me both times was how poorly the Australians played New Zealand's spinners on a track that took some, but by no means excessive, turn. The Aussies might have a bit more spin to face before the tournament ends...
    - I think part of the reason Australia is better at 50-over cricket than 20-over cricket (or indeed Tests) is that their bowling attack is chosen first and foremost for containment. That works well in ODIs, but my belief is that in T20s and Tests taking wickets is the first requirement. Provided she was fit, I would always play Holly Ferling if I was Australia - she can be erratic, but she gets people out.

  4. I have seen a couple of media articles from squad members that are very positive about this squad and potential for 'game changing' performances. Yes they have the ability and experience to progress but in terms of game changing I look to the White Ferns and Saffers as a lead.

    There is pressure on the England women to perform consistently in the most inconsistent of formats just look at Oman in the men's.

    I hope recent experiences are motivating for England and they bring their A game have no doubt there are some who are playing for their futures and pressure does funny things. Grab your opportunities or you may miss a chance to be part of the next phase of womens cricket a stronger global game awaits.

  5. After the second warm up game against New Zealand in as many days, I think (hope) coach MR has the following eleven pencilled in for Bangladesh - Jones, Edwards, Taylor, Knight, Beaumont, Greenway, Sciver, Brunt, Gunn, Shrubsole, Hazell
    Though I would seriously consider giving Elwiss another go against South Africa on Monday for either Greenway or Sciver. Lydia as a fielder brings something special and although we haven't seen much in the batting department from her lately, Nat is a decent t20 bowler.
    Danni Wyatt unlucky here not to get.

  6. A bit cautious from England today. If they don't go hard against India then it will be Australia in the Semis. A win is a win but there is room for improvement in the cooler conditions of Dharamsala.

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