MOHALI: Never before have two seemingly routine group matches in the Women’s World T20 meant so much to cricket fans back home in Pakistan.
The Pakistan’s women team play England in Chennai on Sunday, while the West Indians take on the Indians in Mohali.
These are more than mere routine group matches – for all concerned. None of the four teams have made it to the semis, and a win today will not guarantee a slot in the last four for Sana Mir’s girls, though it will bring them a step closer.
The English lead the group with six points, while the Caribbean and the Pakistani girls are on four and the Indians are on two. India not only have to beat West Indies, they must hope Pakistan go down as well.
Pakistan, on the other hand, will be joint-second placed with either West Indies or India or both if they win. In other words, they will move into a territory that the Afridis of this world have bowed out from.
If England win Sunday’s match, it will be their 70th in this format while Pakistan have an opportunity to record their 30th.
The game involving the Calypso queens and the hosts will be the 10th face-off between the two, with the Indians enjoying a slight edge with five wins compared to four by the West Indians.
But on the flip side, after a run of five wins on the bounce in India, Mithali Raj’s side have lost back-to-back matches on their own turf, including one against Pakistan. They are likely to be a cautious lot.
Pakistan’s opponents, title-contender England, won the inaugural tournament in 2009 and were runner-up to Australia in the last two editions.
They are also among the favourites to top the group with matches in hand against the West Indies, apart from Pakistan.
As a visibly relieved England captain Charlotte Edwards said after their last win, against India, “It was good to beat India on their home ground.”
Pakistan have lost five of the six previous matches previously played against England; that victory did come in the most recent meeting however.
They are also high on confidence, having dominated Bangladesh from start to finish in New Delhi in their last game on Thursday.
Anam Amin and Asmavia Iqbal snapped four wickets each as Bangladesh, electing to bat, was kept down to 113 for nine with Fargana Foque being the principal scorer with 36.
“Extremely proud of the way we have played in the last few matches,” captain Sana Mir said after their last win against Bangladesh.
Sana declined to talk to this reporter on the eve of the big match, as she wanted to focus on the task at hand and not get distracted.
With the entire country’s cricketing aspirations now resting on its women players, she does need to focus. Can the girls rise to the occasion today?