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Windies W
Womens World T20

Defending champs look to ride on home support

WI v Aus, WT20 semi-final 1, preview

The first semi-final is a repeat of last edition’s final. Can the defending champions keep their campaign on track?

Overview

Windies v Australia
1st semi-final, ICC Women’s World T20 2018
Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua

Australia lost to the Windies in final of the ICC Women's World T20 2016
Australia lost to the Windies in final of the ICC Women's World T20 2016

At the start of the ICC Women’s World T20 2018, Australia were the favourites. They have since lost to India, but few still would count them out of the running. They remain a well-drilled unit, who have set aside sentiment about seniors, juniors and rankings, to identify the best personnel for particular roles and run with it.

Coming up against them is the team that pulled off an upset last time around. This time, there will be less surprise if the Windies do win to keep alive their title defence. Despite not firing on all cylinders all the time – especially with their top order – they have found rocket fuel to lift off in some areas to win themselves matches.

Part has come from the team bonding and preparation, part from the crowds. They have thrived on local support, rallying around to defend even relatively small totals. With the music, dancing and loud stands, they are in their element. They have approached every game as a must-win, and celebrated as if they’ve won the cup every time.

Helping the home side prepare for the weight of the knock-outs were two Antiguan legends: Sir Viv Richards and Sir Andy Robers joined the squad for a pep-talk on Tuesday. “It was really nice to hear some encouraging words. At this stage, there's a lot of nerves flying around, and it's good to hear encouraging words to kind of settle that down,” said Stafanie Taylor, the Windies captain.

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Australia are prepared to deal with the fact that they won’t have the crowd behind them when dealing with a team with “plenty of X-factors”. Their focus has been on being relaxed. They’ve spent their time off exploring the beautiful beaches of Antigua, and reminding themselves how lucky they are to have the privilege of playing at this level.

“Coming up against the West Indies, we know they're a very dangerous team, and [it’s] always very difficult to win semi-finals. It's a new game tomorrow,” said Meg Lanning, the captain.

“We're really excited about the opportunity that we've got to play in a semi-final in front of a really big crowd. It looks like it's going to be. So the atmosphere is going to be amazing, and we were speaking earlier today about just really embracing that opportunity.”

From the group stages, it would appear that there are the two fittest sides facing off. On the eve of the game, the Windies’ fielding training included getting their net bowlers to simulate running between the wickets and putting them under pressure while they honed their ground fielding and catching – a reminder of just how seriously they are taking that aspect of the game.

“Fielding is definitely going to play a really big role,” said Lanning. “When we looked at the ground yesterday, it looked quite bit, so yeah, especially our outfielders are going to have to be on their game. We feel like that's an area of strength of ours, our ability to move in the field and create chances.

“We know that the West Indies are very good in that area, as well, so it's going to be a good battle … We're looking forward to that challenge.”

Players to watch

Hayley Matthews (Windies): Matthews has had just one knock of note in the tournament, a blazing 63 against Sri Lanka. A keenness to attack right from the start has been her undoing. Antigua will again likely provide a surface that will demand some application from the batters, and with the Windies’ top order looking shaky for much of the tournament so far, it will be vital that she get settled to give them a good platform. She was, after all, the Player of the Match in last time’s final.

Alyssa Healy (Australia): There are still questions about whether the wicket-keeper opener will be fully fit to play a part in the semi-final following her mild concussion in the group game against India. She has been participating in training, and doing well, but a final decision is expected to be taken on the morning of the match. She is the in-form player, and vital to giving them the blazing starts their game depends on.

Conditions

It’s been mostly sunny skies in Antigua. Showers are possible, but locals insist they’re generally quick and painless this time of the year. Temperatures will be around 29°C during the day, with a cooler 24°C and a pleasant breeze in the evenings.

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Squads

Windies: Stafanie Taylor (c), Merissa Aguilleira, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Sheneta Grimmond, Chinelle Henry, Kycia Knight, Hayley Matthews, Natasha Mclean, Anisa Mohammed, Chedean Nation, Shakera Selman

Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Alyssa Starc, Elyse Villani, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham