World Cup Preview: Can Heather Knight and Co repeat their heroics from 2017?

England enjoyed a successful international summer. © Getty Images

Defending champions England are the second most successful side in ODI World Cups, having won four titles in the 11 previous editions. They were the winners of the inaugural tournament when the world of women’s cricket was a different place and they also went on to win two out of the last three global events, including the famous home World Cup win at Lord’s in 2017.

England will be taking on their arch-rivals Australia – the most successful side in women’s cricket history – on March 5 as they set out to defend their title to take one step closer to the side from Down Under.

How they made it?

England finished second in the ICC Women’s Championship with 29 points on their way to New Zealand. They registered 14 wins and lost six games in their 21 matches during the 2017-2020 cycle, with one being a no result.

What have they done in the past?

In the first global event in 1973, they walked away with the trophy at home after procuring 20 points and finishing ahead of Australia. Since then they went on to win three more silverwares – 1993, 2009, and 2017. When they beat India in the 2017 final, they kept their hundred percent record as hosts intact with their third triumph in as many attempts at home.

Best World Cup finish

Winning four World Cups means they had multiple best finishes, but their best run at the World stage came when they won the 2009 edition in Australia before doing a double with the T20 World Cup triumph at home later that year.

Coming from a difficult Ashes series having gone down in all three matches of the ODI leg, England won’t find it easy to keep that coveted trophy in their cabinet. But they still start the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the trophy.

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Squad

Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Natasha Farrant, Amy Jones, Emma Lamb, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danielle Wyatt

Travelling reserves: Lauren Bell, Mady Villiers

Likely playing XI

Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Amy Jones (wk), Danielle Wyatt, Sophia Dunkley, Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole, Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross

Key players

Tammy Beaumont

Tammy Beaumont, the Player of the Tournament from the 2017 edition, continued her great run to finish as the most prolific run-getter in the World Cup cycle. The right-hander scored 1721 runs at an average of 47.80 from 40 innings. But more than the runs, it’s her ability to bat long – she scored more centuries (five) than any of the batters – that makes her such a valuable asset for England.

Sophie Ecclestone

Sophie Ecclestone had to skip the 2017 edition due to her studies, but come 2022, she travels to New Zealand as arguably England’s best bowler. The 22-year-old has taken 52 wickets – only Shabnim Ismail with a wicket tally of 53, is ahead of her – at an average of 23.55 and an economy rate of 3.69 from 36 matches.

Ecclestone can be a holding bowler as well as the strike force for England and she will be looking to her height to generate bounce in the good batting conditions of New Zealand.

X factor

Natalie Sciver

Natalie Sciver’s numbers aren’t extraordinary and she doesn’t feature among the top ten run-getters or wicket-takers since the last World Cup. Still, the 29-year-old remains vital to England’s title defence both with bat and ball. She bats at the crucial number four position after skipper Knight and can perform varied roles with the ball – be it opening the bowling, taking up the third seamer role, or doubling up as the death bowler.

The allrounder made her intentions clear by scoring a century against Bangladesh in England’s first warm-up fixture. She also returned to take two wickets, giving away just 12 runs, as England rode to a 109-run win.

Prediction

Semi-finalists

Despite coming into the World Cup as the reigning champions, England won’t start the tournament as the outright favourite, but that might also allow them to play freely. A side comprising of Knight, Sciver, Ecclestone, Beaumont, and Brunt should make it to the knockout stages.