Mumbai: Defending champions England and runners-up New Zealand will lock horns in their do-or-die match of the Super Six stage for a place in the finals of the ICC Women's World Cup here on Tuesday.
However, the match could prove to be inconsequential if the second-placed West Indies stun table-toppers Australia in their day game on Wednesday at the MIG ground here.
The 2009 World Cup finalists are tied at four points with England and the team that wins can harbour hopes of reaching the final by virtue of net run-rate, provided Australia maintain their winning streak in the tournament.
England will try to be in the hunt and keep the ambition of their title defence alive, while New Zealand would be kicking itself for missing out against West Indies and throwing the last spot open.
"So now we have really opened this Super Six stage up, which has given England another sniff and West Indies are now in the hunt. It is going to come down to the last game and it is going to about some big matches," Suzie Bates had said after their 48-run loss to West Indies on Monday.
"I guess that is what World Cups are about and unfortunately today's loss (against West Indies) has put us on the back foot. But we will get up. England we beat them in a warm-up match, (so) we will go in that match confidently."
England had lost a low-scoring tie against Australia by two runs but bounced back to chase the meager total of 78 against South Africa and the holders will rely heavily on their skipper Charlotte Edwards to fire with the bat.
The 33-year-old seasoned pro has had a mixed bag so far, having scored a century (109) against India in a group league encounter and then failing to get into double figures against Australia and South Africa in the super six stage.
The lethal combination of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, the leading wicket takers in the tournament so far, will be England's strength as the duo has 24 wickets scalp to their name. The English middle-order has been struggling to be among the runs, but this has been the case with New Zealand as well.
The New Zealand middle-order has largely depended on in-form captain Bates and that seems to be their Achilles heel. It was evident against West Indies when middle order collapsed to the Caribbean spin attack and the batters failed to chase down the target of 208.
The White Ferns will expect Bates, who is the top run-scorer in the tournament with 307 under her belt so far, to dominate the English bowling attack in the crucial game. Bates notched up 102 against Australia, 73 against South Africa and 65 not out against Pakistan, and made 37 off 41 balls during their chase of a paltry 103 against Sri Lanka but could contribute only 30 against the West Indies.
Batting being an area of concern for the two teams, New Zealand pacers Sian Ruck, Rachael Candy and Lea Tahuhu, who have been in good form, would be hoping for early wickets.
But before that match, all eyes would be glued to the West Indies and Australia clash as the result would help to decide who the other finalist would be. The Caribbean side, who emerged as the dark horse in the tournament, defeated New Zealand by 48 runs in their second Super Six match on Monday to be the leading contender for the final spot with six points on board.
The Merissa Aguilleira-led side will have a difficult task of snapping Australia's winning streak if they have to book a place in the final. Stafanie Taylor is the player in prime form for the Caribbean side and she has been wielding the bat well to score 304 runs in the series so far.
World record holder for the fastest 100 in T20s, Deandra Dottin will bolster the middle-order and try to put the opponents on the ropes. Pacer Tremayne Smartt who dismantled the New Zealand top order with her early blows to finish with three for 39, will have to produce a similar performance against Australia, for her side to cruise into the finals.
The only team to have qualified for the finals, Australia can afford to relax but skipper Jodie Fields is not the one to take the West Indies lightly.
"Leading into the West Indies game, you can't take them lightly. They have got some great players like Deandra Dottin and Stafanie Taylor who have all been firing with the bat," Aussie skipper Jodie Fields had said.
Australia's bowling attack is their strength and the Jodie Fields-led side showed it against Sri Lanka, when they dismissed them for a paltry 131 and had defended the small score of 147 against England.
"I think the bowling and fielding performance from our team throughout the tournament has been our strength. We pride ourselves in being one of the top nations with fielding and I think we have done that throughout the tournament and I think it is going to be important leading into the West Indies match and also after that," she had said.
Pace spearhead Ellyse Perry, who missed the previous two games, is likely to be fit and get an outing against West Indies. The Australian batters have not fired in unison and openers who came good with the bat against Sri Lanka would use this game to peak right before the finals.
Meg Lanning, who scored 112 in her team's victory over New Zealand, hasn't made much contribution in the other matches, while her opening partner Rachael Haynes made her top score of unbeaten 71 in the previous match against Sri Lanka.
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