Australia targets fifth title at Women’s T20 WC

The home team opens the 10-team tournament against India on Friday

Mighty Australia goes into its home Twenty20 World Cup this week as overwhelming favourite as it looks to cement its superiority in women’s cricket and draw a world-record crowd in the process.

Meg Lanning’s defending champion, and four-time winner, was rarely tested through the second half of 2019 when it whitewashed an injury-ravaged West Indies and a developing Sri Lanka team in the short format.

Giving a glimmer of hope to its rivals, it surprisingly slumped to defeat against India and England this month, before rallying to win the warm-up tri-series.

“To be put under pressure like this heading into a World Cup is extremely good preparation,” Lanning insisted.

Despite the recent losses, Australia is widely expected to contest the March 8 final at the MCG.

Along with Lanning, Australia boasts wicketkeeper-batswoman Alyssa Healy, all-rounder Ellyse Perry and bowling sensation Jess Jonassen, all among the world’s best.

Australia has been dominant since the World Cup was introduced 11 years ago, winning four of the six tournaments so far and crushing England by eight wickets in the 2018 final in the West Indies.

The only other teams to lift the trophy are England on home soil in 2009 and the West Indies in 2016.

Lanning’s side open the 10-team tournament here on Friday against an Indian side which includes teen batting sensation Shafali Verma.

Australia and India are 2-2 across their last four meetings and Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur said her side had improved markedly since the last World Cup, when it lost to England in the semifinals.

“If I look back two years, India’s 50-over side was doing well and our T20 was struggling. But in the past two years, we have transformed as a T20 team and are very positive going to Australia,” she wrote in a column. “All of the teams have strengths — but so do we. Our strength is spin,” she added, with the dangerous Radha Radav and Poonam Radav in the ranks.

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