New Zealand are bracing for a trial by spin when they come face to face against in-form India in the 2020 Women's T20 World Cup at Junction Oval in Melbourne on Thursday (February 27). Both teams are unbeaten in this tournament so far, with India getting the better of Australia and Bangladesh, while New Zealand defeated Sri Lanka with the utmost ease.
The showpiece event has been dominated by bowlers so far with a team crossing the 150-run mark only once (England v Thailand) and the most impressive among them has been Poonam Yadav. With seven wickets to her name, the legspinner is currently the tournament's leading wicket-taker. Following her match-winning performance against Australia in Sydney, Poonam was once again amongst wickets against Bangladesh, picking up 3 for 18. Indian batters have managed scores of 132 and 142 in their first two encounters and have gone on to defend it comfortably.
Poonam relies more on flight and has got tremendous control over her legbreaks and wrong'uns. No other bowler has taken more wickets than Poonam (58) in T20Is since 2018. Batters simply haven't been able to read Poonam and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur has used her very smartly. The likes of Deepti Sharma and Shikha Pandey have bowled with great control at the start and that has made Poonam's life slightly easier. India's only frontline seamer, Shikha too has contributed in both the games and has taken five wickets at an economy of 3.57.
In the absence of her senior opening partner Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma smoked 39 off just 17 deliveries against Bangladesh. The 16-year-old has got India off to a rapid start in both the encounters and has played the role of a dasher to perfection. While Shafali has done most of the hitting, Jemimah Rodrigues has batted with great maturity at No. 3, allowing the others to bat freely. India's middle-order, however, will have to pull their socks and the onus will be on Harmanpreet who has only managed scores of 2 and 8 in this competition.
The Women in Blue might have won both of their games but they will have to be at their very against New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine. With scores of 75, 105, 77, 61, 54*, 72, 19 and 62, the right-handed opener has been in unbelievable form since 2019. The opener has scored six fifties and one century in her last eight innings and India will have to get rid of her as soon as possible. She smashed unbeaten 75 against Sri Lanka in the first match and will look to carry her form forward against India as well. And if that wasn't enough, Devine has also picked up 11 wickets since 2019.
The White Ferns were ruthless against Sri Lanka. Legspinner Amelia Kerr and left-arm seamer Hayley Jensen took five wickets between them and restricted Sri Lanka to just 127. Then Devine did her thing and got good support from Maddy Green. Devine has a brilliant record against India, but at the same time, the likes of Suzie Bates, Rachel Priest and Katey Martin too are pure match-winners on their day.
India - Mandhana didn't feature in the game against Bangladesh due to viral fever and will straightaway walk into the side in place of Richa Ghosh. Meanwhile, despite taking two wickets against Bangladesh, Arundhati Reddy has been very inconsistent and has failed to build on the pressure created by other bowlers. India have a similar option in Pooja Vastrakar who can tonk the ball down the order.
Rajeshwari Gayakwad has done a decent job in both the games but if India want to have more batting depth, they can bring in Radha Yadav.
New Zealand - After their dominating outing against the Islanders, it's highly unlikely that New Zealand will tinker with the winning combination. The surface at the Junction Oval will offer some assistance to the spinners and someone like Anna Peterson can prove handy.
India - Smriti Mandhana, Shefali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Deepti Sharma, Veda Krishnamurthy, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy/Pooja Vastrakar, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
New Zealand - Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine (c), Katie Perkins, Lea Tahuhu, Rachel Priest (wk), Maddy Green, Hayley Jensen, Katey Martin, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr/Anna Peterson.