England start as favourites to lift their fourth Women’s World Cup title at Lord’s on Sunday, but face an Indian side high on confidence after knocking out defending champions Australia in the semi-finals.Indian middle order batsman Harmanpreet Kaur took centre stage with an unbeaten 171 and was backed by a disciplined performance by her bowlers as India pulled off a 36-run upset win over six-time world champions Australia.England, captained by Heather Knight, edged out South Africa by two wickets in the other semi-final, and hold the head-to-head advantage over India in the 50-over format at World Cups, with six wins to the visitors’ four.But the Indian squad’s ability to grind out results under pressure will not have gone unnoticed, least of all by the English, who were beaten by India by 35 runs in their first match of the tournament.Since that defeat the hosts have won seven matches in a row to reach the final.Knight and opening batsman Tammy Beaumont have been consistent at the top of the order, scoring 750 runs in the tournament so far, while the reliable Natalie Sciver at number four is the only player to have recorded two centuries.India, skippered by Mithali Raj, are chasing their first World Cup title and are known for their strong batting lineup, but it is their spin bowling trio that has wreaked the most havoc during the tournament.Off-spinner Deepti Sharma has been the key to their success in the middle overs, picking up 12 wickets on her World Cup debut.advertisementSharma has been backed by leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht, who decimated Pakistan with a five-wicket haul earlier in the tournament.Raj and veteran fast bowler Jhulan Goswami are the only two members from the last Indian side that reached a World Cup final — when they lost to Australia in 2005.”It seems like it’s going back to 2005, and I am just too happy that the girls have given us an opportunity to be a part of World Cup finals again,” Raj said after the semi-final victory.”They have performed well throughout the tournament in the run-up to the finals. Playing the hosts is going to be a challenge but, having said that, this unit is up for it.”
Italy ‘Balotelli’s earned Italy call-up’ – Baselli says striker is a ‘really nice guy’ Matt Dorman 01:56 5/27/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Getty Images Italy Mario Balotelli Italy v Saudi Arabia Friendlies The Nice forward is in line to win his first cap in four years when Mancini takes charge of his first game against Saudi Arabia Mario Balotelli’s return to the Italy squad has been welcomed by Torino midfielder Daniele Baselli.New Italy coach Roberto Mancini has included Balotelli in his first squad following the striker’s impressive season at Nice.Balotelli could win his first cap in four years when Italy meet Saudi Arabia on May 28 and Baselli is happy to have the former Manchester City forward in the squad. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now “Mario’s presence is nice and for me he’s earned his call-up,” Baselli said. “He’s a really nice guy and he keeps the atmosphere light-hearted.”Meanwhile, Baselli feels that Mancini’s willingness to invest in youth is exactly what Italy need to usher in a new era following their failure to qualify for the World Cup.Former Inter and Manchester City boss Mancini has freshened up an ageing squad by including the likes of Rolando Mandragora and Mattia Caldara for his first camp at the helm.Baselli, who finished the season with four Serie A goals, is among the mix of relative newcomers which appears to herald a concerted move toward developing a new generation.Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi all retired after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup, leaving a group thin on experience to pick up the pieces.”I’ve seen that the atmosphere is calm here and everyone wants to work,” Baselli told reporters.”After the failure to qualify for the World Cup, Mancini has the ability and time to prepare for a new cycle and use young players.”He’s one of the best coaches around and certainly the right person to start again with. We have to make the most of this time and put his instructions into practice.”Personally, I have been waiting for this call-up for a very long time. It’s a great pleasure to be here.”Mancini’s men are also due to face France and Netherlands in early June as part of a busy schedule of friendlies in the absence of a trip to Russia 2018.