The eight best teams in the world have been whittled down to the final two and England take on India in Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final at Lord’s.
While many expected England to reach the final, India’s progress has been an unexpected surprise, particularly because they had to win the qualifying event to join automatic qualifiers Australia, England, New Zealand, and West Indies.
By thrashing New Zealand in their final group game and then beating Australia by 36 runs in the semi-final, they have overturned the pre-tournament form book – as did South Africa by also reaching the semi-finals – which has been great for the competition and the game in general.
England won six out of their seven group matches to finish on top of the table. They overcame a sticky start when they lost to India by 35 runs in Derby. After that, they embarked on a seven-match unbeaten run to get to the final. Pakistan were smashed by 107 runs, Sri Lanka brushed aside by seven wickets, and South Africa by 68 runs.
Australia proved a trickier proposition but England held on to win by three runs and finished the group stage with a decisive 75-run victory over New Zealand and a 92-run success over the West Indies. The semi-final against South Africa was a tense affair, but England’s experience got them over the line by two wickets. They are the form side in the competition, having topped the group and not been beaten since that first hiccough against India.
India’s path to the semi-final was not quite as assured, but not by much. They only lost twice, and starting their campaign off with that win over England got them off to a flyer. They followed it up with a seven-wicket win over the West Indies, a 95-run victory over Pakistan, a 16-run victory against Sri Lanka before they were thumped by South Africa, who ran out 115-run winners.
Under pressure, they were beaten again by Australia but bounced back to hand New Zealand a 186-run defeat to qualify for the semi-finals. Their win over Australia in the semi-final – having made Derby something of a happy hunting ground – was a masterful effort and proved they are also in excellent form.
Head to head and team news
Prior to the match-up in Derby, England had won their last six completed matches against India, a run that stretched all the way back to 2012. The last scheduled meeting between them at Lord’s was abandoned without a ball being bowled. India haven’t won a match at Lord’s since 2012 – although they have only played two completed ODIs at the venue.
With both sides in such good form, neither are likely to make any changes unless there are last-minute injury concerns. Keep an eye on any late developments, but expect England to cope with any injuries better than India – they have more strength in depth and more experience on hand.
India’s success in the matches that really mattered – the semi-final against Australia, the win over England, the thumping of New Zealand – were largely built around one individual performance. Key for India is that it hasn’t been one player performing all the time: Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Punam Raut, and Harmanpreet Kaur have all struck centuries, for example.
But the same is true of England, for whom four players have reached three figures. England can take plenty of heart from their group stage campaign after the defeat to India although they made much harder work of the semi-final win over South Africa then they should have done. However, they can take a positive from winning after a batting collapse that would have finished off other sides.
India were brilliant when based at Derby but England will be more at home at Lord’s and it could give them a significant advantage. Their players are far more used to playing at the home of cricket. Furthermore, they have players in their squad who know what it is like to play in World Cup and Twenty20 World Cup finals. Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Laura Marsh, Sarah Taylor were all involved when England on this event in 2009.
For India, only Raj and Jhulan Goswami know what it’s like to play in a World Cup final but they will point to the fact that their players have benefited hugely from participating in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia and the Women’s Super League in England. Will it be enough?
Top Betting Tips
England must be favoured to win this one, and have been installed as 8/15 favourites with Ladbrokes. India are available at 6/4, which shows that the match is in the balance. Home advantage, the experience of the home side, and their recent record over India suggests England are worth backing in this case.
Finals are often nervy affairs, with players unable to play as freely as they would in any other situation.
The weather forecast is not great for Sunday, meaning bowlers may well have the edge if rain is around. In that case, I would take the Evens on offer with bet365 for less than 401 runs to be scored in the final. These sides are both more than capable of hitting well over 300, but a World Cup final – with so much stake – is a different proposition.
Taking a look at the man of the match market, I would go for England’s Natalie Sciver as my pick. She has already struck two centuries, is in good form with the bat, but if there is a little bit of cloud cover, she could take a wicket or two as well, which would put her in with a shout of winning the award. Back her at 10/1 with Paddy Power.