England resume their Women’s World Cup defence tonight/tomorrow morning when they play Australia the first of three matches in the Super Six stage. The top two teams in the Super Sixes go through to the final and England start out fourth on points/net run rate carried forward after Sri Lanka’s upset of India knocked the latter out. It’ll be a bit of an uphill task, therefore; England have very little room for error now.
England will play Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in this round; Australia are very much the form team and are the only one of the six in the second round to have carried forward maximum points. New Zealand also looked very strong in the group stage until losing to Australia, so the only match in which England will be comfortable favourites will likely be the second one against South Africa. This presents an obvious problem for England, but there is also the subtler problem that the West Indies and Sri Lanka, whilst certainly deserving of their spot in the second round, are going to be underdogs against Australia and New Zealand. (Though given that Sri Lanka have now won twice against heavily-favoured opposition they cannot be counted out.) Because England start out fourth, they will need to actually better the results of Australia and New Zealand. The upshot is that unless England get some help from one of the other Group A teams, they may have to win all three of their Super Six matches.
England looked sharp after their loss in the opening match and knocked off India and the West Indies without a great deal of difficulty, but there is still room for improvement and with Australia in ominous looking form they probably have to improve. Most notable even in their wins in Group A was how England seemed to let up with the ball during the middle overs. This is not uncommon in ODIs, of course, but after getting well on top of both India and the West Indies it was a bit troubling to see them start to let those teams back into the game. Especially in the win over India, the final margin was much closer than it ought to have been. If England manage to take early wickets against Australia they will need to be more aggressive; Australia bat deep enough that they can recover lost ground if they are given the chance. England also have the fitness of Katherine Brunt about which to worry. She came off in the middle of an over after turning her ankle against the West Indies. There’s been no news that I’ve seen concerning how well she has come back from that, but if she is not fit it will be a massive blow for England.
England may have a slight advantage with the match being played in Mumbai; they have already played two matches at the Brabourne Stadium and Australia have to fly over from Cuttack, where the conditions were rather different. The toss will likely be a big factor as well. The conditions in Mumbai have really favoured the bowlers in the early morning before flattening out in the afternoon and in each of England’s three matches the side batting first have got off to a poor start. It’s possible that this might have even been the difference between a win and a loss for England in the opening match. It is another early start against Australia and it is probably too much to hope that Australian captain Jodie Fields will make the same mistake that her West Indian counterpart did in batting first if she wins the toss, so England will very much be hoping for better luck after Charlotte Edwards lost all three tosses in the group stage.
The match against Australia is not quite a must-win affair for England, but to lose would end any realistic hopes of topping the group and throw them into a very open battle for the second spot where net run rate would likely come into play. The early loss against Sri Lanka may yet prove very costly.