Women's World Twenty20: Charlotte Edwards ready for the old enemy
The T20 final will feature England, Australia and sledging
Women's cricket has come a long way. Anyone who supposes that it is merely a version of jolly hockey sticks is woefully misguided. It is tough and uncompromising, and when England play Australia in the Women's World Twenty20 final today, no quarter will be given, none asked. In short, there will be sledging. Nothing too ripe for most tastes, perhaps, but there will be no easy rides or soft touches out in the middle at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium.
"Obviously on the pitch it's feisty," said Meg Lanning, Australia's new captain yesterday. "We both want to beat each other and that's as it should be. We obviously talk off the field but once we get on the field it's business as usual.
"There's always comments, a bit of banter, I think that's how the game should be played and everyone knows where the line is and I think it's just a bit of fun and trying to get an edge however you can."
Nobody should be surprised that Australian cricketers of any gender wish to stick it to the Poms. But England are not wilting wallflowers and their opponents can expect a constant stream of gassing from the perky wicketkeeper, Sarah Taylor. The batsman, Heather Knight, also "has a lot to say for herself", observed Charlotte Edwards, England's revered captain.
Edwards, who is leading the side for the 188th time, said: "We get on really well, or from my point of view we do. It's the biggest rivalry we have in cricket but the two teams have a huge amount of respect for one other, it's played in a good spirit but it's really hard. There will be some banter, they're two teams who are desperate to win."
And would there be any swearing? "No, of course not," said Edwards with a slight raise of the eyebrows and sideways grin. "We will try and do our talking with bat and ball, there will be a lot of nerves flying around and hopefully banter as well."
The sides are meeting for the 15th time since last August. Although England won both Ashes series played in that time, home and away, Australia have had the better in tournament play recently. This is Australia's third consecutive World T20 final. They beat England by five runs in the 2012 final and are holders of the 50-over World Cup.
England have improved as the tournament has progressed and crushed South Africa in the semi-final. There is a slight concern they are too dependent on Edwards' runs at the top of the order, though there was a welcome return to top form for Taylor against South Africa.
"We've got better with every game, we know our roles," said Edwards. "It's about playing without fear, enjoying the moment. I'm very excited." Edwards is one of four England survivors from the team that beat New Zealand at Lord's in the 2009 final along with Taylor, Lydia Greenway and Jenny Gunn. She and Taylor opened the batting that day and although Taylor dropped down to number three shortly afterwards it is significant their opening partnership has been reinstated in the past fortnight. It left a void at number three which became almost a dangerously experimental position before England alighted on Knight.
If the batting has tended towards fragility and apprehension recently, England's bowling has been formidable. The attack has been led by Anya "The Hoof" Shrubsole whose prodigious late in-swing has brought her key early wickets in each of England's last four matches. Shrubsole is the tournament's leading bowler with 12 wickets and if she can remove the dangerous Lanning early today, England will immediately feel more comfortable.
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