Australia brushed aside current champions England today at CCI to begin its Super Six section of the Women's World Cup India 2013 with aplomb. Despite a shaky start with the bat against the reigning champions, the side managed to turn things around for its time in the field and eventually won the thrilling game by just two runs, despite some valiant batting by Holly Colvin and Anya Shrubsole of England.
Meanwhile New Zealand brought Sri Lanka back down to earth after its recent run of victories with Suzie Bates' side crushing the Sri Lankans by eight wickets. The highest scoring match of the day, in Cuttack, saw Stafanie Taylor lead the West Indies run-chase to ensure the side beat South Africa by two wickets at Barabati Stadium.
The day began well for the England side with Charlotte Edwards' side winning the toss and choosing to field in the morning sun at the Brabourne Stadium. The choice proved wise for the England team when it had the Australians reeling at 32 for five in the 12th over. However, stylish all-rounder Lisa Sthalekar came to the side's rescue.
The 33-year-old, who was in fact born in Maharashtra, steadied the innings with a hard-fought 41, while others fell around her to the bowling of Katherine Brunt and in-form bowler Anya Shrubsole claimed wickets-galore. Sarah Coyte once again also showed her mettle for the Australian side to add 44 to the total, with side eventually all out for 147, its lowest score against England in World Cup match.
In reply, England were swept aside by some spectacular bowling by fast bowler Holly Ferling, the 17-year-old, playing in her second ODI for Australia, claimed Danielle Wyatt, Lydia Greenway and Jenny Gunn to finish the game with figures of 3-35. Megan Schutt began the innings on a high for Australia dismissing danger-women Charlotte Edwards for eight and Sarah Taylor for a duck.
England were left wobbling on 39 for six after Gunn's departure but Laura Marsh added key runs which set up Shrubsole and Colvin in their last ditch attempt to save the game for England. The pair came within a hair's breadth away from victory, with just three runs required in 18 balls, the duo looked set to lead the side to a stunning win, but Erin Osborne had other plans. She tempted Colvin into edging a ball to Fields and the safe hands of the Australian 'keeper secured Australia its first win of the Super Six stage.
Post-match, player of the match Sthalekar said: "Look, I think credit needs to go to both teams who played today. England played really well, especially their bowlers - Anya Shrubsole was hooping them in and that ball she got Jess Cameron out on was spectacular. The conditions here really help to get the ball to swing and it worked in our favour today.
"I think obviously 147 runs is not enough for a wicket like that and so I always felt that it would go down the wire. We needed to pick up early wickets, our seamers did a wonderful job at the start. That gave them a few more overs to settle in and get used to the wicket that prolonged the match a little bit.
"Tight finishes allow the spectators to get into the game. As players you don't like it too tight. With the score that we put on board it was always going to be tight. It was great to see some of our younger players really stepping up."
Edwards was disappointed with the loss but said the side's previous loss in the ICC WT20 finals in Sri Lanka last year was not on the side's mind ahead of the game: "No I don't think it affected us psychologically today. We were disappointed with that but we had a great record coming in to today's event, it's just disappointing that we couldn't go over the line today.
"We were delighted with the way we bowled with Shrubsole and (Katherine) Brunt again, Colvin again, all the bowlers bowled fantastically and we will take 147 anytime against Australia we should have got those runs. It didn't have anything to do with the wicket and to be fair we just didn't capitalise on some of our opportunities plus it was our poor shot selection at times."
Edwards added she had no concerns about her middle-order failing to fire: "I think individually they have all stood up at times collectively maybe we haven't batted as well. I think India is the only game we have collectively batted as would have liked to. Yes our bowling is brilliant, our batting is something that we need to improve on but I am not worried.
"Sarah Taylor hasn't scored runs in the competition so far but she is dangerous and hopefully there are big things to come from her so I am not too concerned. I think it's a case of working hard and doing well against South Africa. We have to come out strong I think it's going to help our batting in a way. I think net run rate is going to play a big part now."
Meanwhile, over the other side of Mumbai at the BKC ground, the match played there was following a similar script to the previous game it had held. Win the toss, bowl first in helpful early morning conditions and bowl the opposition out cheaply and chase down the score with ease.
It was England bowling out West Indies in the earlier game, however today it was New Zealand Women who followed the script as they skittled Sri Lanka Women for 103 in its first game of the Super Six today. They chased down the score with ease achieving the target in just 23 overs with eight wickets to spare.
After asking Lanka to bat first on winning the toss, Lea Tahuhu (4-27) and Sian Ruck (3-16) ripped through the Lankan batting. Tahuhu started the slide removing Yasoda Mendis off the first delivery she bowled. Three wickets fell in three overs as Sri Lanka slid from 22-1 to 23-4. There was a brief fight-back as Dilani Manodara (34) and Sandamali Dolawatte (19) added 38 for the fifth wicket. When Tahuhu removed Dolawatte, nobody else could get going as the island nation folded up for 103.
In reply, New Zealand was hardly in trouble after Frances Mackay (39 not out) and skipper Suzie Bates (37) put on 71 for the opening wicket off 15 overs. This win strengthens New Zealand's chances of finishing among to top two to qualify for final as it has four points with two Super Six games to go.
Bates, who missed out on a fourth consecutive half-century, was happy with the win: "We came here expecting a tough game. But it turned out to be easier than expected."
Bates said that winning the toss was crucial and her bowlers made good use of it: "We have played warm up matches here and we lost the match against England when they won the toss and elected to field. The key is to take early wickets. The wickets becomes very good for batting after a time, so we made use of it."
Tahuhu was awarded Player of the Match for her match-winning effort. "It was a nice pitch to bowl on and having won the toss I am happy to have picked my career-best effort," she said after the game.
Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Sriwardena said that the swing in the morning did them in. "This is the first time we are playing here. The New Zealand bowlers swung the ball really well. The key was to see out the new ball. After that it becomes a good batting wicket. Sandamali Dolawatte and Dilani Manodara did try to build up a partnership but they couldn't continue."
Sri Lanka has been quite inconsistent in this tournament with a win over England followed by a huge loss against West Indies. After it won against India to qualify for Super Six, Siriwardena felt that the side had turned the corner: "We were confident that we would play good and we thought this will be a tough match. But we couldn't continue our fine form for today's game."
In Cuttack, Stafanie Taylor starred in West Indies' exciting two-wicket victory over South Africa at the Barabati Stadium. South Africa after opting to bat, posted 230 for seven its 50 overs. In its reply, West Indies overhauled the target in 45.3 overs with two wickets to spare.
Earlier, South Africa was well served by Trisha Chetty (45) and former skipper Cri-Zelda Brits (44) while skipper Mignon du Preez contributed runs (31) along with Dane van Niekerk (33 not out).
For West Indies, Tremayne Smartt with figures of two for 43 was the best bowler on view.
In its reply, West Indies raced to 141 for 1 in 23.5 overs thanks to a 126-run stand between Kycia Knight (46) and Taylor (75: 78b, 9x4, 1x6).
But thereafter West Indies lost wickets in a heap and slipped from 141 for one to 173 for five. Shemaine Campbelle (33) and Deandra Dottin (24) thereafter played handy knocks, while the West Indies lost three more wickets before it finally got over the line.
Van Niekerk picked up three for 47 and Marizanne Kapp with two for 42 were the best bowlers on view.
West Indies now have a two-day break before it plays New Zealand on Monday, 11 February, at Cricket Club of India in Mumbai. South Africa next plays defending champion England on Sunday at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack.
South Africa captain Mignon du Preez was disappointed with the loss.
"We thought 230 was a lot of runs on this wicket. None of us have scored on this wicket so far, so I thought we had a good chance but we faltered in the bowling department. Stafanie Taylor batted brilliantly. Unfortunately it didn't go our way.
"I think for the first time, everyone chipped in with the bat It was a good team effort, but we would have wanted someone to go on and make a big one. Because the longer you bat it easier it gets. Unfortunately we threw our wickets away."
Du Preez rued the bowling and fielding lapses during the West Indies innings: "We have been bowling quite a lot of extras, we can't afford to do that. We have to work on that going into the next game. I think a few misfields here and there added a bit of pressure on us. I don't think inexperience was the reason why we couldn't pull through in the end."
Du Preez said the target for her side was to get a berth in the third-fourth place play-off now: "I think our realistic target is to hopefully get into the third-fourth playoff. Our aim was to get into the semi-final. But there is no semi-final. So we want to qualify for the third-fourth play-off match."
West Indies captain Merissa Aguilleira on her part was thrilled with the start to the Super Six campaign: "We have no room to make any mistakes in the Super Sixes. We really have to be on top of our game, so we knew we had to start well. We could have won with more wickets in hand but there are areas we need to work on. After all it is about going forward."
The West Indies captain, also the wicket-keeper, felt South Africa made far too many runs in its innings: "I must say they got 60 runs too much, we were a little bit slack on the field. Yes the batters put down their heads and did what they were supposed to do. The ball kept low at times but overall we did a good job. We have been faltering a bit with the batting.
"We know how important it is, so we had to just go out there, have faith in each other. The pitch kept a bit low, it was different from what we had in Mumbai where the ball was coming on better. But it is about adjusting to the conditions."
Aguilleira also lauded the role of the coach Sherwin Campbell in getting the batting line-up to perform at its best.
"I think one aspect the coach (Sherwin Campbell) has been focusing on is once the batters get in, try to bat through. That is one area which we haven't accomplished much. Today you saw, Shemaine Campbelle got in but threw her wicket away in the end. I think we need to be more patient."