Following their Poonam Yadav-inspired victory over defending champions Australia, India will be high on confidence when they come face to face against Bangladesh in their second 2020 Women's T20 World Cup encounter at the WACA on Monday (February 24). The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side now already have two points to their name, while Bangladesh will be playing their first match of the tournament.
All of four-foot-eleven, Poonam forced Australia's strong batting line-up into submission with her legspin. India's leading wicket-taker in T20Is, Poonam was introduced into the attack when Australia were cruising along nicely, chasing 133. Alyssa Healy greeted her with a six but the leggie got her revenge on the very next delivery and put Australia on the mat by picking up three more wickets in her next two overs. She finished with figures of 4 for 19, playing a key role in bundling Australia out for 115.
Poonam, who missed out on a well-deserved hat-trick, relies more on flight and has got tremendous control over her legbreaks and wrong'uns. No other bowler has taken more wickets than Poonam (55) in T20Is since 2018. Bangladesh batters will be expected to tackle Poonam better but the 28-year-old has an unbelievable record against this opponent. In eight games against the neighbouring country, Poonam has taken 17 wickets at an average of 6.94 and a strike rate of 10.5.
“She's someone who always bowls for the team, and it's not easy to play because she's a little slower in the air, but in T20 format she loves to bowl with a nice lead. When you have to hit her, you need to show some patience, and you need to have very good skill", Indian captain Harmanpreet said of Poonam.
Apart from Arundhati Reddy, every Indian bowler rose up to the occasion. Offspinner Deepti Sharma bowled with great control in the powerplay, while left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad picked up a crucial wicket of Meg Lanning. India would have liked Arundhati and Gayakwad to be slightly more economical and if needed, they have solid back-ups in Pooja Vastrakar and Radha Yadav. However, it's highly unlikely that the team management would tinker with the winning combination.
Right-arm seamer Shikha Pandey also chipped in with three wickets, but India will be worried about how some of their batters went about their business. Shafali Verma, 16, got India off to a breezy start and that's the kind of role the team management would want her to play throughout the tournament. With Shafali going bang bang from the word go, her partner Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet will have to be much more wise with their shot selection. With an average of just 15.83 in six T20Is, Mandhana doesn't have great numbers against Bangladesh but will fancy her chances at the WACA where the ball comes on nicely.
“You have to keep winning and keep motivating your team. In the T20 format, you cannot rely on one win because you have to keep winning. We are very happy with this first game, this game will set the tone for us but we know the upcoming ones are very important. We look to get runs in the first six overs. Mine and Smriti’s wickets are very important for the team and we didn’t play the right shot at that moment," said Harmanpreet.
After slamming 40 in the first four overs, India lost three wickets in the space of six runs. Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti, however, showed great level of maturity and put on 53 runs for the fourth wicket. Deepti in particular batted till the very end and ensured India got to a respectable total. The Women in Blue don't have any big-hitter down the order and that's why Harmanpreet will have to ensure she is there to do the finishing job. If needed, India can bring in someone like Vastrakar who can hit those lusty blows.
India have won nine out of 11 T20Is against Bangladesh but the latter have come out on top in the last two games that these teams have played against each other. Both of Bangladesh's wins came in the 2018 Women's Twenty20 Asia Cup with India failing to defend 141 (league-match) and 112 (final).
It was Bangladeshi spinners who kept Indian batsmen in check and will once again be expected to shoulder most of the responsibility. In Rumana Ahmed, skipper Salma Khatun, Nahida Akter, Fahima Khatun and Khadija Tul Kubra, Bangladesh have plethora of spinners in their squad. Both Rumana and Salma have done well against India in the past but India will also have to be wary of Nahida.
The ace left-arm spinner has a bowling average of 5.8 which is the best amongst bowlers who have bowled a minimum of 30 overs since 2019. Nahida has picked up a wicket every 8.9 deliveries, again, best by any bowler in this time frame. Not once she has finished with an economy of over five in a match since 2019. While the focus has largely been on their spinners, right-arm seamer Jahanara Alam too has been a consistent performer. The 26-year-old has taken 16 wickets since 2019 at an impressive average of 9.50 and has bowled those tough powerplay and death overs.
When it comes to batting, Nigar Sultana, Fargana Hoque and Sanjida Islam are Bangladesh's most prolific batters. The former two have scored a century each in this format, and the trio will once again have to do most of the scoring. All three of them average less than 20 against India but will have to be at their best against Poonam and Co. if Bangladesh want to topple India.
A win here will push India one step closer to that semi-final spot, but they won't have it easy against Bangladesh who have won 10 of their last 13 T20Is.
India - Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Veda Krishnamurthy, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Pooja Vastrakar, Taniya Bhatia, Radha Yadav, Harleen Deol, Arundhati Reddy, Shafali Verma, Richa Ghosh.
Bangladesh - Ayasha Rahman, Fargana Hoque, Khadija Tul Kubra, Nahida Akter, Panna Ghosh, Rumana Ahmed, Sanjida Islam, Fahima Khatun, Jahanara Alam, Nigar Sultana, Ritu Moni, Salma Khatun (c), Shamima Sultana, Murshida Khatun, Sobhana Mostary.