India, NZ to battle for last WWC semi-final spot
The Indian eves face a do-or-die situation to seal the last semi-final spot at the ongoing ICC Women's World Cup when they face a formidable New Zealand in their final group tie at The County Ground here on Saturday.
England, Australia and South Africa have all booked a place in the last-four with victories on Wednesday, leaving a straight shootout between India and New Zealand for the fourth and final qualification spot.
The side to top the eight-team league will play the fourth-placed side in the first semi-final in Bristol on July 18 while the sides finishing second and third will feature in the second semi-final in Derby on July 20.
Victory for either team will see it through, while a tie or a washout would be enough for India to pip the White Ferns, as India is currently one point better off, according to an International Cricket Council release.
Yet both teams will need to bounce back from defeats in the penultimate round of pool matches, where New Zealand lost by 75 runs to England and India were beaten by eight wickets by Australia.
India skipper Mithali Raj has demanded improvement from her troops and believes the ability to cope with the pressure of a must-win game will be the deciding factor.
Mithali, who became the highest One-day Internationals (ODI) run-getter in women's cricket during the match against the Southern Stars on Wednesday, failed to take her team home despite scoring a fighting 69.
India will once again bank on their opener Punam Raut, who valiant 106 went in vain against the Aussies. For India to make an impact against the Kiwis, all eyes will also be on the middle order, which failed to rise up to the occasion on Wednesday.
Mithali has demanded improvement from her troops and believes the ability to cope with the pressure of a must-win game will be the deciding factor.
"The girls are so talented, but it's just a matter of how well they pull themselves up after a defeat. That's what makes world champions," she said.
India will also hope for a better show from their bowling unit led by the world's highest ODI wicket-taker Jhulan Goswami and assisted by the spin trio of Ekta Bisht, Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma.
On the other hand, back from a 75-run thrashing by hosts England, New Zealand will be aiming to turn things around in the upcoming encounter. They also enjoy a whopping 9-1 head-to-head record against the Indians in World Cups.
Apart from the loss against England, New Zealand only went down to Australia in the ongoing World Cup while their match against South Africa was washed out, and captain Suzie Bates sounded positive heading into the decider.
"We've got what is basically a quarter-final against India and we know we can beat them. But we've got to play well because one of us is going home," she said ahead of the crucial tie.
While their batting will revolve around the likes of skipper Suzie, wicketkeeper-batswoman Rachel Priest, veterans Amy Satterthwaite and Katie Perkins, the 16-year-old leg-spinner Amelia Kerr could prove to be an unexpected surprise in the bowling department.
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, Punam Raut, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma (WK).
New Zealand: Suzie Bates (Captain), Erin Bermingham, Sophie Devine, Maddie Green, Holly Huddleston, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Katey Martin, Thamsyn Newton, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest (WK), Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu.