Less than a week since the Lionesses catapulted the profile of women’s sport into the stratosphere by winning Euro 2022, their cricket counterparts have the chance to claim a major title of their own at the Commonwealth Games this weekend.
England was, of course, the 2017 World Cup winner and a finalist in New Zealand at the start of this year under the captaincy of Heather Knight.
Yet this is a very different England now. With a hip injury that ruled Knight out of the Games, Nat Sciver has led a team bolstered by a youth injection to Saturday’s semi-final against India in Edgbaston.
Confidence in 17-year-olds Alice Capsey and Freya Kemp, plus 20-year-old sailor Issy Wong, was repaid during a group stage in which England won three out of three matches, with Sri Lanka, South Africa and the most ruthless on Thursday, New Zealand already beaten.
India, the top scoring team in the tournament so far, will be a tougher test. But a final against Australia, overwhelming favorites to beat New Zealand in the other semi-final, awaits the winners.
The Australians comfortably defeated England in the World Cup final in Christchurch in April. Still, that was a 50-over game, unlike the T20 format played in Birmingham.
And an England XI who has had six players under 25 throughout the tournament is something no one will fear as they have their sights set on the first women’s team to win gold at the Commonwealth Games.
Wong, who grew up in nearby Solihull, said: It’s a serious opportunity that none of us miss. It’s the business end of the competition now, so it’s nice to find some form. I think we’ve gotten better with each game and that’s nice, so hopefully we can keep it that way.
Capsey, the breakout star of last year’s Hundred, is England’s top scorer in every game so far, despite making her international debut just a week before the start of the Games.
Gold in Birmingham would no doubt build on the momentum the Hundred gave the women’s game in this country last summer and would certainly make household names like Capsey, Wong and Kemp.
India must first be defeated in a rematch of the 2017 World Cup final against Lords. There are probably only four survivors of that match in either team, England Sciver and Katherine Brunt and Indias Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur.
Commonwealth Games 2022 cricket semifinals
- Date: Saturday 6 August
- Location: Edgbaston, Birmingham
- Time: 11am BST for England vs India, 6pm Australia vs New Zealand
- TV: Depends on BBC schedule but may be available on the red button
- Live Stream: BBC broadcasts up to 11 streams daily on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website
India, knowing they can set the women’s game on fire in their own country with gold at these Games, showed the danger they pose by forcing series winners Australia to dig deeper than anyone expected in the opening game.
After posting 154 for eight, they had the Australians chasing 49 for five and 110 for seven before a brilliant unbeaten 52 from Ashleigh Gardner saw them sneak home to a three wicket win.
Mandhana, Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues are all in shape with the bat and will provide England’s bowlers with their toughest exam yet at the Games.
But after narrowing New Zealand to 71 for nine in their final group stage match, Sciver is confident her team can get the job done in this semi-final. When we bowl against a team like this, I think we’re in a pretty good position,” she said. But India has some batters in a bit more form at the top of the rankings, so they’ll be important for us to get out.
England will certainly feel they can pass India to set up a likely gold medal showdown with Australia.
It could be a weekend.
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