The sixth women's World Cup had a sorry start in Delhi yesterday, with the games between India and Sri Lanka, and the Netherlands and the West Indies washed out after torrential rain. With Australia-Iceland in Madras also doubtful, it therefore falls to the holders, England, to try and get proceedings under way against South Africa in Hyderabad today.
To be sure of a good draw in the quarter-finals, England need to win this game. In the following six days they play Pakistan, Denmark, and Ireland, and - barring calamity - they should not be troubled. At the end of their group, however, the Australians lie in wait, so to secure one of the top two places and a friendly draw, they need to dispose of South Africa.
A convincing 2-1 series win over South Africa last summer augurs well, but conditions here are more challenging, and many tip the South Africans as the tournament's dark horses.
The Indians have been unfailingly charming hosts and the English are enjoying the experience. But the women's cricket association of India has little money, and is struggling to get this very big show on the road.
Yet England are ignoring any local difficulties. They have been shopping, riding around in auto-rickshaws and they have easily won two practice matches against Andhra Pradesh.
Karen Smithies, the England captain, said yesterday: "I can't wait, none of us can... We're rested up and ready for it. We've seen them, we've beaten them, and we know what we've got to do."
There is little doubt that England will progress. The bigger question here, where women's cricket is very much the poor relation, is whether a very capable Indian side can also win matches and friends - and for the moment that, sadly, is in the hands of the rain gods.Reuse content