ICC wt20, England women's cricket team, England women, Charlotte Edwards, Edwards, World Cup 2016, wt20, WOrld T20 2016, WT20 India, Cricket news, Cricket updates, Cricket England captain Edwards has led with the bat, scoring 171 runs from 4 games. (Source: PTI)

ENGLAND CAPTAIN Charlotte Edwards played a match-winning knock of 77 against Pakistan in their final league encounter in Chennai to steer her side through to the semifinals of the World T20. In doing so, she became the first player to go past 2,500 runs in the shortest format. That’s a mind boggling stat, considering women don’t play as frequently as their male counterparts. However, Edwards is a bit of a doyen in England women’s cricket. Since her international debut in July 1996, the 36-year-old has gone on to feature in 23 Tests, 191 ODIs and 94 T20s. In the interim, she would play key roles in her side winning two premier ICC events — the 50-over World Cup and the World T20 triumphs — both of which came seven years ago.

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For a player with such wealth of experience, Edwards found herself at the receiving end of the selectors’ wrath after England’s embarrassing loss to Australia in last summer’s Ashes. Questions were raised about her commitment to the team, and to women’s cricket in England. Sections in the British press questioned her viability in the team and sought her immediate sacking.

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Edwards survived the bad press, and she stayed on as England captain. However, all the negativity surrounding the Ashes debacle only strengthened her resolve to prove her detractors wrong, and help her in the team’s rebuilding process. Much has changed since last summer’s Ashes defeat. For starters, the appointment of Mark Robinson as the coach late last year proved to be the change Edwards and the team were looking for. Robinson injected positivity into the side and urged his team to play more aggressively.

Change in approach

“Robinson has always urged us to bat more aggressively and show a bit more intent, especially in the Powerplay. He wants us to bring out those T20 shots from our locker.” Edwards noted. There was ample proof of that aggression in this edition of World T20. In the game against Pakistan, England scored 55/0 in their 6 overs. This was incidentally the highest score in Powerplay in World T20 this year. England won four league games on the trot to seal their spot in the semis. And leading the team’s charge was their captain Edwards.

Opening the batting, she has scored 171 runs in four games to become the joint-leading scorer. She was ably supported by her opening partner Beaumont. Together, they have invariably given England good starts — one of the reasons why they have progressed so deep into the tournament.

Suddenly that Ashes debacle last summer appears to be a thing of the past. But Edwards is more measured. “The great thing about that loss last summer is that it has only increased our drive to improve and do well. The important thing is that as a side we are more relaxed and are not putting too much pressure on ourselves.”

In the semifinals, they are up against arch rivals Australia. Edwards and her team will be seeing this as the perfect platform to avenge their Ashes loss. However, she chose to quell such talk, and insisted Australia were the favourites. “We have been in the finals the last two editions. Let us hope its third time lucky for us. The good thing is that we have not put too much pressure on ourselves. It is a great rivalry, both teams know a lot about each other so there will be no secrets out tomorrow,” the captain said.

Both sides have a history at the World T20s. England won the opening edition in 2009, while Australia won the three subsequent editions. Interestingly, Australia had defeated England in the finals of the 2012 and 2014 editions. In many ways, this match is being billed as the repeat of the thrilling semifinal played between these teams during the 2009 edition at The Oval.

Fresh from their emphatic win in the 50-over format three months ago, England were the favourites at home. Batting first, Australia scored 163 in their 20 overs, just one run short of equalling their highest score. England then lost two early wickets, but Claire Taylor and Ben Morgan saw them through with their remarkable 122-run stand for the second wicket. It was a record chase in women’s cricket, and that match heightened the drama each time the two teams met in subsequent ICC events. “It’s a similar feel to 2009. We didn’t play that well in the group stage. We went into that game as not the favourites. Hopefully, we will have a similar result as well,” Edwards added with a smile.

Australia too had a smooth run in the tournament, and have lost just the game to New Zealand. Despite playing on the spin friendly tracks here, the Aussies have preferred to use their fast bowlers Megan Schutt and Lauren Cheatle. Going forward, captain Meg Lanning will be hoping her fast bowlers make early inroads and test the English middleorder.

“Their openers have been prolific. But, if our fast bowlers can get them out early, their middleorder will be tested,” Lanning said. Going by their current form and history, these are the two best teams in women’s cricket. The English batters will be up against the might of the Aussie bowlers. This will surely be a humdinger at the Feroz Shah Kotla.

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