Confident India eye maiden Women's World Cup glory vs England
On a high after a sensational semi-final win against world beaters Australia, the Indian eves are battle-ready to script history when they take on three-time winners England in the ICC Women's World Cup final at the sold-out Lord's here on Sunday.
A dozen years after making their second entry to a Women's World Cup final, the Indian team looks beaming with confidence and will settle for nothing short of a win, which will be a befitting farewell to the likes of veterans -- skipper Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami -- the only players from the 2005 final where India lost to Australia at the Centurion.
In Mithali and Jhulan, they will see the record-holders for the most runs and most wickets in women's One-day Internationals (ODI), and by her own admission the captain is playing her last World Cup and Jhulan, who is the same age (34), is likely to be in the same position.
The India team's run at the World Cup has been terrific so far. After beating England by 35 runs in the opener, they went on to hammer Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa in the group stages.
Riding on all-rounder Harmanpreet Kaur's sensational 115-ball unbeaten 171, India banished the demons of the group stage loss to Australia, by knocking out the Southern Stars by 36 runs in a dramatic semi-final in Derby on Thursday.
England hold a numerical advantage of having beaten India six out of the 10 times the teams have met in World Cups. But one can't discount India's recent run in the tournament.
While Mithali has been the consistent factor in the Indian line-up, besides breaking the 6000-runs mark in women's ODIs, the young guns -- 19-year-old Deepti Sharma, 21-year-old Smriti Mandhana and 24-year-old Veda Krishnamurthy -- have all risen to the occasion when the situation demanded.
For the records, Mithali has scored more runs against England in ODIs than any other player (1605) while both teams have one ODI victory over the other at the Lord's.
However, on Sunday all eyes will be on Harmanpreet, whose power-hitting against the Australians, turned her into an overnight sensation among the fans.
In the bowling front, India will once again bank on their pace duo of Jhulan and Shikha Pandey along side the successful spin combination of Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Poonam Yadav and Harmanpreet.
Ekta and Rajeshwari grabbed five-wicket hauls against Pakistan and New Zealand, respectively, contributing to India's results immensely.
On the other hand, England qualified for the final with a dramatic two-wicket win over South Africa with Anya Shrubsole hitting the winning runs in the final over.
The host has lost just once in the tournament so far, and that too against India in the opening game of the tournament in Derby.
Since then England has gone seven games unbeaten to reach the home of cricket but captain Heather Knight believes there is still more to come from her side.
The hosts will leave behind the demons from the semi-final where the top order comprising the likes of Lauren Winfield, Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight, Natalie Sciver and Fran Wilson failed to convert their starts.
Barring wicketkeeper-batswoman Sarah Taylor, who scored a 76-ball 54, England failed to get going and narrowly managed to chase down the below-par target of 218.
Going into the big final, the toss could also play a crucial part, as the team chasing always had more pressure to deal with in the current edition of the tournament.
England: Heather Knight (Captain), Tamsin Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Beth Langston, Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor (WK), Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield and Danielle Wyatt
India: Mithali Raj (captain), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smrti Mandhana, Mona Meshram, Shikha Pandey, Poonam, Nuzhat Parween, Poonam Raut, Deepti Sharma and Sushma Verma (WK).