In the first part of our team-by-team lookahead to the 2023 Women's T20 World Cup, we focus on Group A, which includes Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Click here for part two of our team previews.
Australia come into this T20 World Cup having lost just one match - and that was via a Super Over against India - since the start of January 2022 and 14 of those 18 matches were played away from home. Their depth has been unquestionable, which was evident in the way they played in Meg Lanning's absence for a good part of last year and with her back at the helm, Australia will be a strong contender. They have been cricket's perennial entertainers and achievers on the international stage, winning three of the last four T20 World Cups, and they will go all guns blazing to defend the title in South Africa.
Meg Lanning (capt), Alyssa Healy (wk), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
Player to watch
It's hard to not put Tahlia McGrath in the spotlight. The allrounder has emerged as a vital cog for Australia. After Beth Mooney, she has the second-most runs for the team in T20Is since the start of 2022, amassing 463 runs in 18 matches at an astonishing strike rate of 142.02. She recently overtook her team-mates Lanning and Mooney and Smriti Mandhana to be the No.1 T20I batter after impressive knocks of 41* and 70 against India. McGrath's big-match temperament was evident at the Commonwealth Games last year and, going by her current form, one can expect a similar performance at the World Cup.
Predicted finish: Champions
New Zealand are on a positive run, even if against less robust competition than they are likely to face in this competition. After their bronze-medal finish at the Commonwealth Games last year, they downed West Indies 4-1, including a Super Over triumph, at home before blanking Bangladesh 3-0 in December. The only major concern they face is over the fitness of captain Sophie Devine, who is managing a stress fracture to her foot, an injury which kept her out of three unofficial practice games against England in Pretoria. Encouragingly, left-arm spinner Fran Jonas returned from a calf injury sustained while at the Under-19s World Cup to bowl in those warm-ups.
Sophie Devine (capt), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Eden Carson, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Molly Penfold, Georgia Plimmer, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu
Player to watch
Suzie Bates heads into what could perhaps be her last T20 World Cup in red-hot form. Playing for Otago Sparks, she scored 293 runs in the Women's Super Smash, the fourth-highest in the competition. Her strike rate of 128.50 was the best among the top five run-scorers in the tournament to the end of January. She also picked up four wickets with her offspin. With Devine returning from injury, Bates' all-round form will be critical to New Zealand's quest for a world title.
Predicted finish: Semi-finalists
Drama is never far where South Africa are concerned, especially at World Cups, and the build-up to this one has delivered. South Africa go into the tournament without their regular captain Dané van Niekerk, who was ineligible for selection after failing her two-kilometre time trial, prompting speculation about her, and her wife - star allrounder Marizanne Kapp's - future. Without Lizelle Lee and Mignon du Preez, who both retired last year, and Trisha Chetty, who has a back problem, South Africa will rely heavily on Kapp, Sune Luus, Shabnim Ismail, Chloe Tryon and Laura Wolvaardt, who have formed the core of the squad in recent years albeit with mixed results. After reaching the 2020 semi-finals, then winning series against Pakistan and India, South Africa have beaten Ireland and recently won a tri-series involving India and West Indies.
Sune Luus (capt), Chloe Tryon (vice-capt), Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk, Lara Goodall, Shabnim Ismail, Sinalo Jafta, Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Laura Wolvaardt, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Delmi Tucker, Annerie Dercksen.
Player to watch
Marizanne Kapp has the potential to be a match-winner with both bat and ball and was South Africa's most impactful player at the fifty-over World Cup last year. With the ability to find swing, she sets the tone with the new ball and even more so as a big-hitting finisher with the bat. She scored her second T20I fifty in the tri-series against West Indies and if used consistently in the top four could pose a major threat to opposition attacks.
Predicted finish: Group stage. Their own goal is to reach the final but it's difficult to see them getting into the semi-finals in a group with Australia and New Zealand.
After a forgettable Commonwealth Games campaign where they failed to win a match, Sri Lanka turned it around at the Women's T20 Asia Cup. They only lost to India and Pakistan in the league stage before tumbling Pakistan in the semi-final to make the title clash, although they were thumped by India in the final. Moreover, they head into the T20 World Cup with no cricket behind them, having not played an international since that clash in Sylhet in October 2022.
Chamari Athapaththu (capt), Oshadi Ranasinghe, Harshitha Samarawickrama, Nilakshi de Silva, Sathya Sandeepani, Kaveesha Dilhari, Anushka Sanjeewani (wk), Kaushani Nuthyangana, Malsha Shehani, Inoka Ranaweera, Sugandika Kumari, Achini Kulasuriya, Vishmi Gunaratne, Tharika Sewwandi, Ama Kanchana
Player to watch
Sri Lanka have long been over-reliant on Chamari Athapaththu. Harshitha Samarawickrama, who has played a couple of T20 World Cups and a 50-over World Cup, is one of their key batters in the middle order with experience to count on. She was the second-highest run-scorer in the Women's T20 Asia Cup with 202 runs, including 81 against Thailand. In a line-up minus Hasini Perera, Samarawickrama's returns could well decide how Sri Lanka fare, especially in the game against Bangladesh.
Predicted finish: Group stage
Bangladesh do not have a good history at T20 World Cups, winning just two of their 17 matches so far, and those victories were against Ireland and Sri Lanka (both in 2014). As far as their current form is concerned, they have won ten of 17 T20Is since the start of 2022, but they have faltered against teams such as India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan. That said, Salma Khatun and co. did give Australia a bit of a scare at the ODI World Cup last year, and one cannot take them for granted on their quest to rewrite history.
Nigar Sultana (capt & wk), Marufa Akter, Dilara Akter, Fahima Khatun, Salma Khatun, Jahanara Alam, Shamima Sultana, Rumana Ahmed, Lata Mondol, Shorna Akter, Nahida Akter, Murshida Khatun, Ritu Moni, Disha Biswas, Sobhana Mostary.
Player to watch
Nigar Sultana has been a reliable figure in the Bangladesh batting line-up for a few years now. She was the highest run-scorer for the team last year in the shortest format, notching up 367 runs in 16 innings at an average of 28.23 and was also leading run-scorer for the side at the Asia Cup. That the wicketkeeper-batter has done reasonably well since taking over as captain last year augurs well for Bangladesh.
Predicted finish: Tough to go past the group stage
Reporting by Firdose Moonda, S Sudarshanan and Srinidhi Ramanujam