By Dominic Farrell
England might not face a tougher test than their opening assignment in the Women’s World Twenty20, according to captain Charlotte Edwards.
The 2009 winners begin their campaign against West Indies at Sylhet Stadium tomorrow having come off second-best when they faced the same opposition in the Caribbean at the end of last year.
Warm-up victories over Australia and South Africa served further notice that the beaten 2013 World Cup finalists are now a major force in the women’s game.
“They’re a massive threat,” Edwards said. “They’re a team that can certainly win this tournament, with some of their x-factor players they’ve got, and their recent results in world events have been really good.
“Our hardest game is arguably going to be first. We’re more than ready for that challenge and, hopefully, starting the tournament well.”
Power-hitters Deandra Dottin and Stafanie Taylor are the leading lights of an exciting West Indies line up, but Edwards is keen to highlight a depth of talent in their ranks.
“I think they’re probably the two x-factor players for West Indies but we can’t under-estimate all their other players," she said.
“They’ve got a really dangerous bowling attack – they know what they’re about – and some dangerous hitters at the bottom of their order.
“We’ve played them a lot in recent times and had mixed games against them but I think that’s what is the really exciting thing about tomorrow.
“It’s the start of a World Cup and we know it’s really important to start well. We’ve got our plans in place but it’s now about executing them and that’s something we’re looking forward to doing.”
Dottin, Taylor and their fellow batters must overcome England seamer Anya Shrubsole, who enters the tournament in rampant form.
Spearheading Edwards’ attack in the injury absence of the talismanic Katherine Brunt, Shrubsole returned a remarkable 4-10 as New Zealand were dismissed for 48 at Savar on Thursday – a recovery from 19 for seven.
“She’s had an unbelievable 18 months for us,” Edwards said. “She’s led the attack and, especially with Katherine not being here, she led the attack brilliantly in our last warm-up game.
“We’ll be looking for more of the same from her. I think all of the bowlers were outstanding against New Zealand, hence bowling them out for 48, which was a great way to end the warm-up game phase.
“We’ve still got a little bit more work to do but now it’s about the excitement side and really looking forward to getting under way.”
Two players sharing in that excitement for the first time are Jodie Dibble and Rebecca Grundy, and Edwards is impressed with how the rookie spin duo have acquitted themselves since joining the England squad.
“They’re settling in really well,” she added. “I think they’re two players who we didn’t know a huge amount about.
“They’ve performed really well for the Academy team and they’ve come out here and performed exceptionally well in the two warm-up games, they didn’t look out of place at all.
“They’ve taken to it like ducks to water, which is great from our point of view and means our Academy programme is really working well for us – the transition is really smooth and it’s really pleasing that we’ve got these kind of players to call upon in these conditions.”