New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) Comfortably placed at second spot in the group standings, India will aim to take another step towards the semi-finals of the women’s cricket World Cup when they meet South Africa here on Saturday.
The Indians had defeated the Sri Lankans by 16 runs in their last match. From here, the campaign gets tougher for the Indians as they travel to Leicester to face the electrifying yet inconsistent South Africans in their fifth match.
There are positives galore for the Indian team. The side is gelling as one comprehensive unit in contrast to the last edition in 2013 at home, where India fared miserably and were consigned to the bottom of the group which also included Sri Lanka, England and West Indies.
This time, the tables have turned and the Indians have defeated all three teams, apart from arch-rivals Pakistan in the four matches they have played till now.
India skipper Mithali Raj is ever dependent and is on her way towards etching her name in the annals of women’s cricket history. She is currently 34 runs away from becoming the highest scoring batter in One-Day Internationals (ODI), a throne adorned by England’s Charlotte Edwards with 5992 runs in 191 matches.
Mithali, who will be playing her 182nd ODI on Saturday, has scored 5959 runs.
The Indians also have the rare distinction of the highest wicket-taker, veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami and highest run scorer playing together in the same team.
Top-order batter Deepti Sharma scored her first half century in the World Cup and earned a double distinction of being the only teenager scoring a half century and taking wickets.
The 19-year-old Deepti is also the joint leading bowler for India with seven wickets along with Ekta Bisht.
Despite Harmanpreet Kaur’s erratic batting of 54 runs in 67 deliveries over three innings, the Indians have fared well, and scored a brisk 62 runs in the last 10 overs during the encounter with Sri Lanka.
Harmanpreet has been consistently pushed down the order in the last three games, resulting in a steep dip in her batting performance.
In the opening match, she played at number four and in the next match at five and finally at the sixth spot against Sri Lanka, resulting in an average of 18, below par by her own standards. A big match player, Harmanpreet will be a player to watch out for as her strokeplay is encouraging on the sharp rising deliveries.
Middle-order batter Mona Meshram has had pedestrian outings in the two matches she has played, scoring 24 runs in 67 deliveries and the team management will be worried about India’s middle-order if the openers fail to click yet again.
India’s opening spell with the new ball has to be accurate as the South Africans’ are fearless hitters. In the previous game against England, the Proteas crossed the 300-run mark while chasing a stupendous 374.
Interestingly, the second highest wicket-taker against South Africa — Shikha Pandey — is likely to return to the line-up as it will bolster the Indian attack since the stout seamer is in good form, having taken 14 wickets in her last seven matches.
Her low dipping length that swings late in English conditions is lethal. Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav looks astonishingly deceptive in the air which can frustrate the batters in the middle overs as it ties them down.
Ekta and Jhulan are both attacking and frugal but they need consistent support from other bowlers.
The South Africans have had a decent outing and have even bowled out the West Indies for a meagre 48 runs last week largely due to the efforts of leg-spinner Dane Van Niekerk along with pacers Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp who bowl at astonishingly high speeds.
Both speedsters have nine wickets amongst them and will challenge the off-side play of the Indians.
India’s penultimate league match would be against the Australians on July 12 at Bristol which will probably decide the line-up for the semi-finals.
(Sunil Yash Kalra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)