|ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020|
|Venues: Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Melbourne Dates: 21 Feb – 8 March|
|Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on all games on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sport website & app; in-play highlights (UK only) & live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app|
Australian dominance, Thailand’s debut and Katy Perry – the Women’s T20 World Cup gets under way on Friday, and there’s loads to be excited about.
The 10 best teams compete in the 17-day tournament across Australia, with the final to be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 8 March.
Defending champions Australia are the heavy favourites on home soil in a tournament they have won four times.
England are bidding to become double world champions, while Thailand are playing in their first major competition after coming through qualifying.
Australia open the tournament against India at 08:00 GMT, while England begin their campaign against South Africa two days later (11:00 GMT).
The final will be held on International Women’s Day, with tournament organisers aiming to break the attendance record for a women’s sporting event.
Test Match Special will have commentary of all the matches on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and there will be live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app, with in-play highlights available to UK users.
There will also be a regular Test Match Special podcast, with analysis from England’s World Cup winner Alex Hartley.
Who are the favourites?
It is hard to look beyond Australia – Meg Lanning’s team are the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 side and are arguably the best women’s team in any sport at the minute.
They begin the tournament having won 26 of their last 31 T20 internationals and they still clinched the recent tri-series against England and India despite some uncharacteristic performances.
In Ellyse Perry they have the world’s best all-rounder, captain Lanning is solid with the bat and Megan Schutt, the world number one T20 bowler, leads their attack.
Their only concern may be over opener Alyssa Healy. The usually destructive batter, so important to Australia’s strong starts, has scored only 24 runs in her past six innings.
West Indies are the only team apart from England and Australia to have won the tournament, in 2016, but they are winless in their past 11 T20 matches and do not have much experience of Australian conditions.
India and New Zealand have firepower in their batting line-ups, but both teams have a tendency to rely on certain players for runs, while South Africa have reached the semi-finals just once in six appearances.
Thailand could struggle against world-class bowling line-ups but their growth – coming through qualification with a team that have largely been together since they were teenagers – is promising for future tournaments.
How will England do?
This is a fresh start for England as they enter their first global tournament under new head coach Lisa Keightley.
England won the 50-over World Cup and reached the World T20 final in 2018 under Keightley’s predecessor Mark Robinson, but they endured a poor home Ashes series last summer.
There are positive signs for Heather Knight’s side. Sophie Ecclestone’s stock has risen and her left-arm spin is key for England, while Knight had a career-best Women’s Big Bash League performance.
Openers Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt also impressed in the BBL – although they struggled in the tri-series – and Natalie Sciver’s all-round game has developed hugely.
However, England have yet to settle on their batting line-up and there are questions over their seam attack, with both Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole battling injury in recent months.
Who are the players to look out for?
Sophie Ecclestone (England): The left-arm spinner shone in the tri-series against India and Australia, taking five wickets in four games, and her consistency allows her to dictate the middle overs.
Ashleigh Gardner (Australia): Gardner is typical of the strength in depth Australia have. The explosive batter is crucial at the end of an innings for the hosts.
Sophie Devine (New Zealand): Probably one of the most exciting batters around, the White Ferns skipper cracked a century against South Africa in the build-up to the tournament and only four women have taken more T20 World Cup wickets than her 26.
Shafali Verma (India): Aged 15, Verma broke Sachin Tendulkar’s 30-year record to become the youngest Indian to score an international half-century. She and opening partner Smriti Mandhana could bludgeon many bowling attacks during the tournament.
Chloe Tryon (South Africa): Tryon’s recent composure to help South Africa narrowly beat New Zealand emphasised how powerful her batting has become. She is mostly used in the final overs and can help the Proteas reach those imposing targets.
What’s Katy Perry got to do with it?
The record attendance for a women’s sporting event is 90,185, achieved at the football World Cup final between United States and China in 1999.
The iconic, 100,024-seater MCG holds the record for the biggest cricket crowd, when 93,013 people attended the 50-over World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
A #FillTheMCG campaign has been launched and Katy Perry will perform a pre and post-match concert at the venue, with tickets priced at A$20 (£10.34) for adults and A$5 (£2.58) for children.
“Regardless of whether we’re there, it’ll be an incredible moment for women’s cricket,” Australia all-rounder Ellyse Perry said.
“We recognise we have a great opportunity ahead of us and we’re looking forward to getting into the event.”
|Group A: Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh|
|Group B: England, West Indies, South Africa, Pakistan, Thailand|
Article courtesy of BBC Sport