Top-ranked sides India and South Africa will lock horns in a high-profile clash on the opening day of the Super Six stage of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Colombo on Wednesday.
Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka and Bangladesh plays Ireland in other matches on the opening day of the Super Six stage as teams compete to qualify for the top four places that will not only get them a place in the ICC Women’s World Cup to be held in England and Wales from 24 June to 23 July, but also in the ICC Women’s Championship.
World champion Australia, England, New Zealand and the West Indies have automatically qualified for the ICC Women’s World Cup by finishing in the top four of the ICC Women’s Championship (2014-16) which was decided with all eight teams playing each other in three ODIs.
Teams in the Super Six stage have carried points gained against other teams in the first round, and will play those qualified from the other group to decide the top four.
India, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the sides favoured on rankings, form and past performances, with Bangladesh and Ireland left to pull out some surprise tricks if they have to upset calculations.
India, which is ranked fourth in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Rankings, has a challenging match upfront since it had lost 2-1 to sixth-ranked South Africa at home in their ICC Women’s Championship series in November 2014 and also in a practice game ahead of this tournament.
However, captain Mithali Raj is welcoming the biggest contest early on after comprehensive wins against Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Thailand in the preliminary league.
She exuded confidence on her batting line-up and the Ekta Bisht-led spin attack, especially since the team is playing two of its matches at the P Sara Oval where it has acclimatised well with three preliminary games and the practice game.
“We have to play South Africa in the Super Six whether in the beginning or the last or the middle, so it doesn’t really matter. In fact, that we are playing them in the first game is good in a way. The match against Pakistan (on 19 February) too is going to be competitive and we are looking forward to the upcoming matches,” Mithali said.
South Africa has won all its matches – against Pakistan, Bangladesh, Scotland and Papua New Guinea, and captain Dane van Niekerk says the team has only been concentrating on its own performances.
“To be honest, we’ve not been following the performances of teams from the other group. We’ve been trying to concentrate as much as we can on our own performances. I’m sure they’re doing really well, but at the end we’re here to compete. We’re at the business-end of the tournament and we really want to work hard,” Niekerk said.