Less than a week since the Lionesses catapulted the profile of women’s sport into the stratosphere by winning Euro 2022, their cricketing counterparts have the opportunity to claim a major title of their own at the Commonwealth Games this weekend.
England, of course, were World Cup winners back in 2017 and finalists in New Zealand at the beginning of this year under the captaincy of Heather Knight.
Yet this is now a very different England. With a hip injury ruling Knight out of the entire Games, Nat Sciver has led a team that has been invigorated by an injection of youth through to Saturday’s semi-final against India at Edgbaston.
The faith placed in 17-year-olds Alice Capsey and Freya Kemp, plus 20-year-old seamer Issy Wong, was repaid during a group phase that saw England win three out of three matches, with Sri Lanka, South Africa and, most ruthlessly on Thursday, New Zealand all beaten.
India, the highest-scoring team in the tournament so far, will be a tougher test. But a final against Australia, overwhelming favorites to beat New Zealand in the other semi-final, awaits the winners.
The Australians comfortably beat England in the World Cup final in Christchurch back in April. Yet that was a 50-over game, as opposed to the T20 format being played in Birmingham.
And an England XI that has contained six players under the age of 25 for the entire tournament will fear nobody as they set their sights on becoming the first women’s team to win gold at the Commonwealth Games.
Wong, who grew up in nearby Solihull, said: “It’s a serious opportunity – that’s not lost on any of us. It’s the business end of the competition now so it’s nice we’re finding a little bit of form. I think we’ve got better with every game which is pleasing and so hopefully we can keep that going.”
Capsey, the breakout star of last year’s Hundred, has been England’s top scorer in every match so far despite only having made her international debut a week before the Games began.
Gold at Birmingham would no doubt build on the momentum the Hundred gave the women’s game in this country last summer and would surely make the likes of Capsey, Wong and Kemp household names.
India must first be beaten in a rematch of the 2017 World Cup Final at Lord’s. There are likely to be only four survivors from that match across both teams – England’s Sciver and Katherine Brunt and India’s Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur.
Commonwealth Games 2022 cricket semi-finals
- Dates: Saturday 6 August
- Venues: Edgbaston, Birmingham
- Times: 11am BST for England vs India, 6pm Australia vs New Zealand
- TV: Depends on BBC scheduling but could be available on red button
- Live stream: BBC broadcasts up to 11 streams on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website daily
India, who knew they could set alight the women’s game in their own country with gold at these Games, showed the danger they pose when forcing serial winners Australia to dig deeper than anyone expected in the opening match.
Having posted 154 for eight, they had the Australians 49 for five and 110 for seven in the chase before a brilliant unbeaten 52 from Ashleigh Gardner saw them sneak home to a three-wicket win.
Mandhana, Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues are all in form with the bat and will provide England’s bowlers with their toughest examination yet at the Games.
Yet after restricting New Zealand to 71 for nine in their final group match, Sciver is confident her team can get the job done in this semi-final. “If we bowl like that against any team, I think we’ll be in a pretty good position,” she said. “But India have got some batters in a bit more form at the top of the order so they’ll be important for us to get out.”
England will certainly feel they can get past India to set up a likely gold-medal showdown with Australia.
It could be some weekend.