There would a lot a stake when confident India locks horns against six-times champion Australia in the second semi-finals of the ICC Women's World Cup at the County Grounds on Thursday.
Australia has an impressive head to head record against Indians, having won 34 out of 42 games the two teams have contested so far. However, the Mithali Raj-led Indian team will be aiming to end the losing streak against Australia. A win tomorrow will ensure India's entry into the summit clash at Lord's only for the second time in the history of the tournament.
India played the final of the World Cup only once in 2005 edition in South Africa, where they lost to Australia. While India have finished the round-robin stage in the third spot with five wins and two losses, Australia have finished second with six wins out of seven games.
The match will be played at The County Ground here, a ground boasting plenty of familiarity for India having played four of its group games here that included its last must-win clash against New Zealand to reach the semi-finals.
Australia, on the other hand, are yet to play at the ground -- though they have continued to impress. "I think this is our home ground and we have played four games here and I think that is why the girls feel at home," India skipper Mithali had said.
The match will also provide the Indians a chance to avenge their morale-shattering eight-wicket loss to Australia in the round-robin stage just a week ago in Bristol. But it would be easier said than done. To upset Australia the Indians will have to excel in all departments of the game.
Mithali, who played an uncharacteristic knock against Australia in the round robin stage, will be desperate to make amends while Punam Raut would be aiming to repeat her century feat against the Southern Stars.
In the high-pressure game against New Zealand, Mithali scored a great hundred under pressure, while Veda Krishnamurthy scored 70 off 40-odd balls to set a good score on the board.
The Indian bowlers then shot out New Zealand for meagre 9 to register a morale-boosting huge 186-run win. Besides Mithali and Krishnamurthy, Harmanpreet Kaur also contributed with a half-century. But the form of opener Smriti Mandhana, who looked in good touch at the start of the tournament would be a cause of concern for the Indian camp.
On the bowling front, the Indian slow bowlers have been impressive while veteran Jhulan Goswami has found the going tough. Australia, however, can ill-afford to take Jhulanlightly. With 190 wickets, the fast bowler has the most scalps in the format's history, with the chance of becoming the first to reach 200 undoubtedly the point of motivation for pacer who made debut in 2003.
Playing her first match in the World Cup, left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad (5/15) picked up her first five- wicket haul in ODIs to single-handedly torment New Zealand and Mithali would be hoping an encore against Australia tomorrow.
The big win against New Zealand gave the Indian eves the much-needed confidence ahead of the semi-final.
"Australia are a very good side, a very rounded side. They have a lot of depth in their batting and they have good bowlers. It is how the team responds to the situation (which is) very important. If we continue to play the way we have played, there is a great chance that we can beat Australia," Mithali had said.
India: Mithali Raj (captain), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Jhulan Goswami, Mansi Joshi, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smrti Mandhana, Mona Meshram, Shikha Pandey,Poonam Yadav, Nuzhat Parween, Punam Raut, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma, Smriti Mandhana.
Australia: Meg Lanning (captain), Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney,Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
Match starts 3pm IST.
With Inputs from PTI