8 Mar 2020

T20 finalists ready for 'biggest game' in women's cricket

1:32 pm on 8 March 2020

Australia captain Meg Lanning says the defending champions' rocky road to the Twenty20 World Cup final against India has them ready for the "biggest game" of women's cricket in Melbourne on Sunday.

Australian captain Meg Lanning and team mates.

Australia women's cricketers will host the final of the Twenty20 World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Since losing their tournament opener to India, the hosts lost talismanic all-rounder Ellyse Perry to injury and scraped through a string of do-or-die games, including the rain-hit semi-final against South Africa, to reach the Melbourne Cricket Ground decider.

Lanning said the testing campaign had them in good stead to take on Harmanpreet Kaur's undefeated India.

"It hasn't been an easy road to the final but I wouldn't have had it any other way," Lanning said.

"We're sort of match and battle-hardened, really.

"The last four games have been cut-throat, must-win clashes ... and we've had to deal with that pressure and the need to stand up when you're under the pump.

"I've been extremely proud about how the group's handled that."

Australia, long the benchmark of women's cricket, will bid for a record-extending fifth Twenty20 World Cup title in front of a huge crowd at the 100,000-capacity stadium.

Organisers hope the attendance on International Women's Day might set a record for a women's sporting event.

"We're not coming here just to put on a show, we're coming here to win, that's the attitude we're going in with."

Australia were comprehensively beaten by the Indians in the tournament opener at the Sydney Showgrounds, their batswomen struggling against the wrist spin of Poonam Yadav, who took 4-19.

Lanning said there would be plenty of practice against slow bowling at training and that "all options were on the table" in terms of selection changes, pending a review of the MCG pitch.

Although Australia were yet to play their "best game", Lanning said there was little need for major changes.

"I think we've shown that we're able to cope and be really calm under pressure and that's what's going to be needed," she said.

"Often in finals you don't need to go above and beyond what you've already presented. It's actually just about producing that again and making sure you do the basics really well.

"Especially early in the game when there are a lot of nerves flying around, that's going to be really important."

India will have energy to burn against Australia after their semi-final against England was washed out by rain, captain Harmanpreet Kaur said.

India head into Sunday's clash after an eight-day break since their last group match against Sri Lanka.

With Thursday's semi-final in Sydney abandoned without a ball bowled, the long rest period did not go down well with all the Indian players, Kaur said.

"No-one wanted to take rest, everyone was so keen, everyone was on the ground and ready to deal with the situation," she said.

"We haven't been outdoors much and we didn't manage to play the important game against England.

"We were all in touch and doing indoor training, but it doesn't give you full confidence because the surface is totally different."

First-time finalists India have been a revelation since kicking off their tour six weeks ago with a five-wicket loss to a local selection of 'B' players in Sydney, the first match on Australian soil for most of the Indian squad.

But after upsetting Australia in the tournament opener they have been untroubled since, with 16-year-old sensation Shafali Verma leading from the front with batting firepower.

Opener Verma has scored 161 runs to top India's batting and leads the tournament with a fierce strike-rate, also of 161.

Shafali Verma of India

Shafali Verma Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Kaur backed the teenager to deliver again and not be overawed by the occasion.

"She's very excited, she's someone who has always enjoyed playing cricket,

"I'm sure she will have a great time and she will get all the runs that we are expecting from her."

Victory on Sunday would be the Indian women's greatest cricket triumph, two-and-a-half years after they lost the final of the 2017 one-day World Cup to England at a sold-out Lord's.

More than 75,000 tickets have been sold for the final and many will have been snapped up by Melbourne's big Indian community.

- Reuters