Australia v West Indies Preview: Can West Indies stop unbeaten Australia?

Australia will face West Indies in the first semi-final © Getty Images

In 2013, Australia and West Indies faced off against each other in Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium in the final match of the World Cup. On the back of Jess Duffin and Rachael Haynes’ half-centuries, Australia posted 259 in the first innings. Ellyse Perry dismantled the West Indies top-order despite carrying an ankle injury and helped her team defend the total. Australia lifted the trophy under the leadership of Jodie Fields in the near-empty stadium for the sixth time. A lot has changed since 2013. When these two sides will face each other in the first semi-final at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Wednesday (March 30), the sense of change will be hard to miss.

What’s at stake:

To start with, Australia’s hero with the ball in that final is going to miss the semi-final due to back issues. Captain Meg Lanning confirmed in the pre-match press conference that Perry could not prove her fitness. It’s a testament to Australia’s progress in recent years that Lanning was confident in her team’s abilities without Perry in the mix. Annabel Sutherland, who featured in the match against Bangladesh, is likely to continue in the playing XI for Australia.

For West Indies, it has been a whirlwind journey. After beating hosts New Zealand and defending champions England in their first two matches, West Indies lost their momentum against India and Australia. They won the nailbiter against Bangladesh in the final over, while their match against South Africa was washed out. The team from the Caribbean had to wait till the final over of the league stage to book their spot in the semi-final. West Indies have come a long way since November 2021, when they had to go through the Qualifiers for a chance to play at the World Cup in New Zealand.

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Warning Signs for Australia

After dominating against the likes of England, New Zealand, India, and South Africa, Australia found themselves in trouble against Bangladesh in a chase of 136. Salma Khatun’s spin reduced the no. 1 ODI side to 41 for four. The reliable Beth Mooney rescued the team from the precarious position to hand them their seventh win in the tournament. It didn’t cost Australia in the end, but Bangladesh showed that any side can put dominant Australia under pressure. Their depth with the bat helped Australia clinch the win. That depth, without Perry, will be tested once again if West Indies finds a way to go through their top order.

Will the Australian bowling unit fire?

Apart from their near-perfect performance against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve, the Australian bowling unit has not fired collectively. They conceded 270+ scores against India and South Africa. Going into the knock-out stage, they would like to minimise the damage. Australia has rotated the bowling attack according to conditions and opposition, but they would like to restrict West Indies’ top order, especially openers Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin, before they get going. West Indies have not faced the teenage pace sensation Darcie Brown, which can be Australia’s trump card. She took three wickets at the same venue in the league match against New Zealand and broke the back of the Kiwi chase. 

Matthews: The allrounder!

Hayley Matthews has been the standout player for West Indies in this tournament. She has proved herself as a top-order batter as well as one of the most threatening off-spin bowlers. She is currently the highest run-scorer and highest wicket-taker for West Indies. Her slip catching has improved throughout the tournament and it can be a threat for Australia. Matthews has played with and against many Australian players in the Women’s Big Bash League, which will help her in the match. A lot depends on how Australia handles the “Matthews threat” with the bat and ball.

What they said:

“We’re expecting them to come out there and play well. Not only have they got some incredible batters, but their bowling lineup is dangerous as well. Connell has been bowling extremely well up front, Hayley Matthews has shown with the new ball that she can certainly play a role. So as a group, we’ve been very focused on preparing for their best play and their best game.”

Meg Lanning on what Australia are expecting from their opposition

I think we’ve come a long way. Probably it does not show so much with the scoresheet. But I feel like we have come a long way. Looking back on the series that we’ve played and as I said like the coaching staff, those persons who contributed so much to us as players and to where we are at. I thought we had a really good start to the tournament, and I hope that that’s something that we can use, to get us through in this backend.

Stafanie Taylor on her team’s journey so far 

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Players to watch out for:

Darcie Brown: 

The 19-year-old has played in four out of seven league matches for Australia, and she has been amongst the wickets. She was instrumental in the win against New Zealand and India with her contribution. West Indies have not faced Brown as she was rested in their league game against Australia. She has provided raw pace in the powerplay in the absence of Tayla Vlaeminck and Australia would like to make the most of the powerplay with Brown taking wickets upfront. It will be an interesting battle to see how the West Indies openers deal with her pace.

Shemaine Campbelle: 

Campbell has been the unlikely star for West Indies in this tournament. She has been faultless behind the stumps and her batting has grown with each game. Her half-century was instrumental to take West Indies past 200 against England. She stood tall against Bangladesh amidst the collapse to score another half-century, which gave West Indies some hope. Campbell can frustrate the best bowling line-ups in the world and if she manages to do that against Australia, West Indies will have an upper hand.

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 14 matches, Australia 13 – 1 West Indies

Predicted XI:

Australia: Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy (wk), Meg Lanning (c), Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Ashleigh Gardner, Annabel Sutherland, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Megan Schutt, Darcie Brown

West Indies:  Deandra Dottin,  Hayley Matthews, Kycia Knight, Stafanie Taylor (c)  Shemaine Campbell (wk), Chedean Nation, Aaliyah Alleyne, Chinelle Henry, Shamilia Connell, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman