Two years after they played the T20I World Cup final in front of 86,174 fans at a packed MCG, Australia and India will square off in the gold-medal match at the Commonwealth Games 2022.
The setting is perhaps a little less intimidating, but Edgbaston will likely be sold out to its 25,000 capacity. This is a rivalry that is fast gaining ground as the second biggest in women’s cricket after England vs Australia.
Having laid their hands on every trophy of significance in the game, Australia are overwhelming favourites. For India, it’s another shot at trying to win a major global crown, five years after they came closest to winning one, at Lord’s at the 50-over World Cup final against England.
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The core of both squads remains the same as it was in 2020. Australia may have aged a bit, but their never-say-die spirit, as was evident in their jailbreak in the tournament opener, makes them a formidable force in any conditions.
India’s is largely a young team learning the ropes of big-match play. After the emotional high of beating England in a tense semi-final, they will need to quickly channel the anticipation, and subdue nerves that playing Australia can often elicit.
India have backed their strengths of batting first and putting opponents under scoreboard pressure. Australia nearly wilted in the first game but found a saviour in Grace Harris, who played a match-turning knock in her first game in six years.
Much of India’s success has been down to Smriti Mandhana’s aggression at the top, followed by Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma finishing off games. Can Sunday be Harmanpreet Kaur’s turn to rise to the occasion against her favourite opponents?
The 171* she made in the 2017 semi-final was pathbreaking in every way. Another impact performance to deliver a win here could spur a revolution. Purely given the novelty and the fascination India attaches to gold medalists, a win on Sunday could be as big, if not bigger, than a World Cup win.
India WWWLW (last five matches, most recent first)
Tahlia McGrath has been so good as an allrounder that she’s keeping Ellyse Perry out of the XI•Getty Images
Players to watch
India are blessed to have three quality allrounders in Deepti, Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana. Deepti has lent much needed batting depth and has been Harmanpreet’s go-to bowler to restrict run-flow, while Rana has been the banker. Vastrakar’s inclusion has given the team the balance they missed when they played Australia in the opener. She is a useful medium-pacer and can wield the long handle down the order. This is firmly a team that is carving out an identity that isn’t always superstar centric.
Alyssa Healy knows a thing or two about turning up and slaying nerves in crunch games. But since that T20 World Cup final in 2020, where she blew India away with a stunning assault, her form hasn’t quite been the same. She has passed 25 just once in 16 innings and averages a shade over 10. Sunday is as good an opportunity as any to once again remind the world of her prowess.
The only question dilemma India may have is between picking a makeshift wicketkeeper who offers batting depth in Yastika Bhatia or an out-and-out wicketkeeper in Taniya Bhatia. The spate of run outs under pressure on Saturday made it amply clear it helps to have a proper wicketkeeper in crunch moments.
India (possible): 1 Smriti Mandhana, 2 Shafali Verma, 3 Jemimah Rodrigues, 4 Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), 5 Deepti Sharma, 6 Taniya Bhatia (wk), 7 Sneh Rana, 8 Pooja Vastrakar, 9 Radha Yadav, 10 Meghna Singh, 11 Renuka Singh
She has bowled plenty in the nets lately, but game time remains elusive for superstar allrounder Ellyse Perry. Barring an injury or a late change owing to short turnaround time, it’s likely she may have to settle for watching Australia’s entire CWG campaign from the bench. Moreover, Meg Lanning has gone in with the same XI in all of their four games in the tournament.
Australia (possible): 1 Alyssa Healy (wk), 2 Beth Mooney, 3 Meg Lanning (capt), 4 Tahlia McGrath, 5 Rachael Haynes, 6 Ashleigh Gardner, 7 Grace Harris, 8 Jess Jonassen, 9 Alana King, 10 Megan Schutt, 11 Darcie Brown
Pitch and conditions
Forty overs of cricket would have already been played on the surface by the time the final comes around, with the bronze medal playoff between New Zealand and England having finished. On Saturday, the adjacent surface, prepared similarly with an even grass cover that aids consistent bounce, remained good for batting right through. Expect more of the same on Super Sunday.
Stats and trivia
- India have lost only two wickets in the powerplay across four matches, the fewest by any team in the CWG
- India’s powerplay scoring rate of 8.73 is by far the fastest among all teams in the tournament.
- Since March 2020, Alyssa Healy has managed just 140 runs in 16 T20Is at an average of 10.76 and strike rate of 84.84.