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India find themselves in a tricky position ahead of the Irish twist

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Last updated on 19 Feb 2023 | 11:36 AM
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India find themselves in a tricky position ahead of the Irish twist

India might have started strong against Pakistan but can now find themselves flying back home

After Pakistan and West Indies, India walked into the England encounter pretty confident. They sensed the opportunity, they sensed that two points and a chance to top the table was right there for the taking.

But considering how India have messed up chances in big encounters, this wasn’t totally out of the blue. It all started with the final of the Commonwealth games, and then later in the final of the Tri-series against South Africa and now against England.

At 29/3, India on the back of a terrific spell from Renuka Singh Thakur were totally a foot and a half on top. But then, it happened. First, the partnership between Nat Sciver-Brunt and Heather Knight before Amy Jones joined the former to add more impetus to England’s innings. From thereon, India never recovered.

So, in a clash where India would have expected to top the table, they are now staring at a grim wall, with a possibility of going back home. However, Harmanpreet Kaur and co would want to smash that wall and top the group. They are up against an Irish side, who are yet to open their account. Will they turn their campaign around and stun the Women in Blue?

Things to watch out for

Renuka’s presence in this Indian team is a breath of fresh air. At the post-match presentation, senior pacer Shikha Pandey showered praises on the right-arm pacer, calling her a ‘dream’ to watch. If anything, she has been the Women in Blue’s best bowler over the last two years. Since her debut, only Deepti Sharma has picked more wickets, with the right-arm seamer picking up 19 wickets in the powerplay. 

In fact, it is quite evident as well in how India have bowled in the powerplay, with 56 wickets at an average of 21. That’s right up there with the best of teams. Up against her are Ireland, who average 31.7 in the first six overs. Not just that, their top-order is their only saving grace, with them averaging 26.9 in comparison to 10.8 and 9.1 from the lower-order.

While all eyes will definitely be on the duo of Gaby Lewis and Amy Hunter, it is Orla Prendergast who could really topple the Indian bowlers. The 20-year-old has been a major driving force in this campaign for Ireland. In their three games thus far, the right-hander has scored 17, 31 and 61 and across all the three innings looked like the best batter for the country.

Alongside that, her bowling hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations thus far but the hope for the Irish management that the right-arm seamer would change her miseries. Can the youngster step up yet again or will Ireland’s top-order fire hard?

Pitch and conditions

St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth hasn’t been the most conducive surface for the batters. Across eight innings, the average first-innings total here at the venue has been 124, which surely hasn’t been a winning total. Teams who have looked to win here have tried to post a total in the region of 150-155.

But majorly it has been a venue that has aided both the type of bowlers – pacers and spinners – with 38 wickets in eight innings. While the pacers have picked up 22 wickets, averaging 19.2, the spinners have picked up 16 wickets, averaging 34. So yet again, the onus will be on Renuka to give India the early breakthroughs.

Not just that, at this venue, the pacers have averaged 19.9 in the powerplay, unlike spinners who have an average of 126. Even if India open the bowling with Deepti Sharma, all eyes would be on the right-arm pacer.

Tactical Nous

-        Ireland pacers would have definitely had an eye or two on the form of Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur. The Indian skipper hasn’t had the best of times thus far in the Women’s T20 World Cup here in South Africa. There’s one evident weakness for the Indian skipper across her WT20I career, and that is the ball in good length against pace. In that length, the right-hander has just averaged 25.1 with a strike-rate of 90.9, with ten dismissals.

-        It would be an interesting battle between the Indian spinners and the Irish batters. Against spin, both Lewis and Prendergast have a good record, with a strike-rate of 123 and 134.1 will surely be key against spin. India’s dependence on spin has been evident thus far, so will Deepti Sharma change her fortunes around in this contest? A prime opportunity for the off-spinner, who was not at her best during India’s loss against England.

Team Combination

India might consider one change after the loss against England, bringing back Devika Vaidya to extend their batting unit. Barring that, expect the team to remain the same.

India Predicted XI: Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain), Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, Devika Vaidya, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh (wk), Pooja Vastrakar, Renuka Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Radha Yadav

Ireland are almost out of the tournament but they can really spoil India’s party here. So, expect Ireland to stick with the same team.

Ireland Predicted XI: Amy Hunter, Gaby Lewis, Orla Prendergast, Laura Delany (c), Eimear Richardson, Louise Little, Mary Waldron (wk), Leah Paul, Arlene Kelly, Cara Murray, Jane Maguire

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