England eye history against depleted India

After a historic series win in New Zealand, India Women will look to continue their upward climb in the ICC Women’s ODI Championship table as they take on England in the first of the three-match series beginning Friday (February 22).

The 2017 World Cup runners-up, India have begun the new Championship cycle with three series win on foreign soil on the trot, starting with South Africa in 2018, besides another 2-1 victory over England in Nagpur last year. Barring a whitewash against Australia at home, around this time last year, their stellar run in the format should be a significant boost ahead of this home leg against reigning 50-overs champions to a side that will, in all likelihood, be conceding the six points on offer in the round against Pakistan due to simmering political tensions.

However, the home advantage is negated by a couple of crucial setbacks. The exploits of ICC Player of the Year Smriti Mandhana and the prodigious Jemimah Rodrigues at the top of the order have often left the fragile middle-order with little or no work, thereby masking a key chink in their armour. And now, the home side have lost their vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur to an ankle injury. The bulk of batting responsibility will again be on Mandhana and Rodrigues, with skipper Mithali Raj possibly dropping down a slot in a relatively inexperienced middle-order but once again donning the pivot’s role. Having said, the slower bowlers’ show against the English batters could be a deciding factor in this series.

And while India are grappling with the loss of an experienced all-rounder, England have been boosted by the comebacks of Sarah Taylor and Katherine Brunt. England’s first-choice wicketkepeer-bat and pace spearhead skipped the last tour to this part of the globe. But now, with the IWC points at stake, England come armed with their strongest unit in their bid to not only pick maximum points from this round but also possibly script a historic maiden ODI series win on Indian soil.

This is England’s first assignment of what looks like a packed 2019 for them, and first of the back to back subcontinental challenges as they hop over to Sri Lanka next. A well-settled and deep batting line-up will come very handy on the batting-friendly tracks at Wankhede, while the bowling, even after the international retirement of experienced spinner Danielle Hazell, looks well-rounded. Add to it the edge England hold over India having beaten them in both the World events back to back and it should make for an evenly-matched contest.

When: India vs England, February 22, 9 am IST, 3:30 am GMT

Where: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

What to expect: Flat track and shorter boundaries should make for a high-scoring encounter.

Team News:

India: India’s already brittle middle-order has been pegged back further with the injury-forced absence of vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur, potentially paving way for Mona Meshram’s comeback after nearly a year. Alternatively, the other like-for-like replacement would be Harleen Deol, who has been handed her maiden ODI call-up after impressing in the domestic circuit as well as in the warm-up match against the tourists.

England: Unlike last year, England have a more experienced and fully-fit squad to pick from with senior pros Sarah Taylor and Katherine Brunt also on tour this time.

What they said:

“The first game of the series always sets the tone. As a middle order batter, I’ve always been flexible enough to change my batting position. It depends on the how the team does and then probably I will change my position.” – Mithali Raj

“Yes, we have talked about it. It’s something we want to do as a team. We want to make history. Since Robbo [Mark Robinson, England head coach] came in, he’s actually spoken a lot about trying to break records, trying to make history. When we came here last year, it was a slightly younger team. We weren’t able to do that; we lost that series 2-1. It’s going to be a challenge to be successful here. But we’d love to do it.” – Heather Knight

Teams (from):

India: Mithali Raj (C), Jhulan Goswami, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wk), R Kalpana, Mona Meshram, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Mansi Joshi, Punam Raut, Harleen Deol

England: Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Sophia Dunkley Brown, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Alex Hartley, Amy Ellen Jones, Heather Knight (C), Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt

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