ICC Women's WT20 - Preview: England v New Zealand
England v New Zealand, Women's World T20 Final, 21st June, 0930 GMT
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By John Pennington
England and New Zealand meet again, four months on from the Sydney encounter that saw England crowned world champions for the third time and one of those sides will on Sunday be crowned Twenty20 champions for the first time.
There is a hat-trick on the minds of the English, for a win will see them hold the World Cup, the Ashes, and the ICC World Twenty20 while New Zealand will be motivated by revenge and an opportunity to hit back.
Neither side has lost a match in the tournament so far, a refreshing change from the men's tournament which was bloated by two group stages that has enabled Pakistan to make the final despite losing twice.
Both teams put in resounding performances in their semi-finals, New Zealand proving far too strong for India and England impressively chasing down 164 to beat Australia and preventing Karen Rolton from leading her side to another world title in her final match in charge.
On captains, New Zealand are now led by Aimee Watkins following the retirement of Haidee Tiffin but England's skipper Charlotte Edwards shows no signs of either giving up the job or failing to lead by example. Since that match in Sydney, New Zealand have made a couple of changes to their team, Sian Ruck and Saskia Bullen notable new faces. England, on the other hand, are virtually unchanged as the only squad member mising out on this tournament, Anya Shrubsole, did not play a match in England's World Cup.
Both teams have very strong top order batters, with New Zealand's batting being carried by captain Watkins and opener Suzie Bates while England rely on the top four of Sarah Taylor, Edwards, Claire Taylor and Beth Morgan.
This hasn't escaped Watkins' attention: “Because the England top order has been going so well for the last 18 months, the middle order hasn’t had many opportunities out in the middle,” she said ahead of the game.
“We think if we can expose that middle order we might be able to put some pressure on them.”
Bowling-wise, New Zealand chose not to bowl an over of spin against India and all of their pace options have been economical and penetrative and will they hope that continues.
England, by contrast, opened with off-spinner Laura Marsh against Australia, and their pace bowlers leaked runs and their fielding effort must improve although if a team can drop four catches and still win, it says much for their strength and ability to dig deep.
A worry for New Zealand is that if Bates (135 tournament runs) and Watkins (198) fail to fire, their middle-order has not yet been severely tested and England will be intent on removing those two cheaply, although the situation is similar for the English as only 74 runs have been garnered by batters not called Taylor, Edwards or Morgan.
Ruck's left-arm swing bowling will provide England with a severe test at the top of the order and she bowled beautifully against India while for England, left-arm spinner Holly Colvin has nine tournament wickets and will be bidding to improve on her performance against Australia.
Both sides will be hoping that they get to play in front of a sizeable crowd at the home of cricket and if the semi-finals are anything to go by, the crowd should be royally entertained.
“It’s the biggest game of our lives tomorrow in front of our home crowd," Edwards said. "We’re desperate to win. We’re dealing with the pressure very well and the girls are relaxed.
“It’s at home and with the profile we’ve had recently and the semi-final win against Australia, there’s a lot more attention around the team now.”
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