Sri Lanka face South Africa in Women's Twenty20 opener


The ICC Women's World Twenty20 Sri Lanka 2012 kicks off on Wednesday in Galle, with host Sri Lanka taking on South Africa in the opening match at Galle International Cricket Stadium.

This Group B fixture will be followed by what is expected to be a cracker of a match between the previous event's losing finalist New Zealand and pre-tournament favourite the West Indies. The first match starts at 0930 while the second match begins at 1330 (local time).

Eight women's teams will be competing in the tournament and they have been split into two groups. Group A includes defending champion Australia, 2009 winner England, and traditional rivals India and Pakistan, who go head to head a day after the equivalent men's Super Eight stage fixture on 1 October at 0930.

Group B comprises home team Sri Lanka as well as two-time runner-up New Zealand, South Africa, and the West Indies, the team that won the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier 2011 in Dhaka last year.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played on the same day and at the same venue as the men's semi-finals in Colombo on 4 and 5 October, with the final to be played ahead of the men's final at R Premadasa Stadium on 7 October.

The semi-finalists from this event will qualify for the ICC Women's World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014. These four sides will be joined by the winners of the two play-off matches between the bottom four teams, which will be played at NCC and Moors Cricket Ground, respectively, in Colombo on Wednesday 3 October.

With Bangladesh also qualifying for the 2014 event as the host country, the final place in the eight-team event will be decided in qualifying tournament to be played next year. The entry to women's matches in Galle is free of charge.

Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Siriwardene, previewing the tournament, said: "We're definitely looking forward to the home support. It's exciting to have a world event like the ICC World Twenty20 in your home country. We expect that people will come out and support us like they have backed the men's team."

Looking ahead to her side's opening match against South Africa, Siriwardene said: "We know each other's game well and the team is looking forward to the match." 

South Africa captain Mignon du Preez believed that facing the host side in the opening match will be tricky.

"It will definitely be challenging, but for them it's in their home ground so they're under a lot more pressure because they have to perform in front of their home audience. But coming here, we are the underdogs, so we don't have anything to lose and we can go out there and have some fun," she said.

Du Preez pointed out that anything can happen in the shortest version of the event. "The game is very short and every ball has its own chance. So, the important thing is to concentrate for 240 balls, because there's no time to catch up later on in the twenty20 format," added the 23-year wicketkeeper-batter from Pretoria.

New Zealand's captain Suzie Bates, who belted six sixes and 19 fours in a swashbuckling 105-ball 168 against Pakistan in the ICC Women's World Cup 2009 in Sydney, admitted that it was crucial that her team arrived early to get accustomed to the conditions and prepare for the tournament.

"We're here to go all the way," she said, adding: "The team is confident ahead of the tournament and the newly launched Reliance ICC Women's T20I Player Rankings shows the team's strength in the shortest format of the game with three players inside in the top 20 batters and another two listed in the top 20 bowlers.

"It's nice to compare individual rankings, and it gives us confidence. We don't have too many players in the 50-over rankings, so it looks like twenty20 is our game."
 
West Indies' captain Merissa Aguilleira said her side was also feeling confident ahead of the tournament, after winning the final match in the five-match series against England. "Coming into here and winning that last game was a big plus for us. We need to carry on with the momentum as we have nothing to lose."

With three players in the top 20 batters of the Reliance ICC Women's T20I Player Rankings, including 2011's ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year Stafanie Taylor, Aguilleira hinted at some aggressive batting from her team.

"From what I can see, the ball really comes onto the bat pretty well so we'll definitely be looking to hit some big scores," she warned.

Australia's captain Jodie Fields said her side was ready to defend the title it won in Barbados in 2010. "Being the defending champions definitely brings some pressure but also adds to our drive and focus as we want to bring the title home again," she said.

Australia plays its first match on September 27 against India, and the 28-year-old from Queensland admitted that it would be a tough match.

"We have trained well in the past few days and had a good hit out against the West Indies (in the warm-up match) which has set us up well for our first match against India. We know what India is like, it is always a formidable opponent and one we can never take lightly.

"India will be used to these (types of) wickets and we are going to have to be on our game from the start if we want to be competitive against them."

England captain Charlotte Edwards said her team was eager to make up for its disappointing performance at the last event, where, as defending champion, the team was knocked out in the group stage.

"That's cricket," she said. "I've played cricket for a number of years and, as I've said to the girls, I've had many highs and lows. That was a huge low, but it is not something I think too much about in terms of thinking about what went wrong.

"That was the turning point for us as a team, so I only see it as a positive now. We've moved on and it's good that it hurts."

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