Co-leader Australia hosts seventh-placed India in a three-match ODI series, starting in Canberra on 2 February, while an unbeaten fourth-placed South Africa hosts fifth-placed England in Benoni in first of the three ODIs on 7 February.
The tournament structure sees each team play each other in one home or away series that will include three ODIs over a two-and-a-half year period. As such, each side is guaranteed at least 21 ODIs over the tournament period.
Australia currently has the same number points as the West Indies, but it has played one less round of matches. A series win against India will give it the sole possession of the top spot in the Championship table.
England, meanwhile, needs to win all the three matches if it wants to displace South Africa from the fourth spot.
Australia, despite losing the Twenty20 International series 1-2, will start as favourite against India. It has won eight of the nine Championship matches to date, has the home advantage as well as an impressive 13-3 head-to-head record against Mitali Raj’s side.
Australia is keen to win this series, but it has an eye on the bigger picture as well.
Captain Meg Lanning, who won the ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year 2015 in December and is the number-one ranked batter, said: “We’ve got two big series coming up against India and New Zealand which should place us really well heading into the upcoming ICC Women’s World Twenty20.
“We look forward to testing ourselves – and hopefully cementing our top spot in the ICC Women’s Championship – before getting ready to defend our title in India. We’re raring to go.”
Coach Matthew Mott added his players were in top form. “It’s been a big summer for women’s cricket in Australia, which has given our players great preparation leading into our upcoming series against India at home.
India, meanwhile, has a chance to rise as high as fourth in the Championship table if it wins all three games. India is yet to win a series in the Championship to date, having lost to New Zealand and South Africa at home by an identical margin of 2-1, and to England 2-0.
It is Raj and her side’s first trip to Australia in seven years and the number-six ranked batter in the MRF Tyres ICC Player Rankings for ODI Batters believes her side can improve.
“India definitely is not in the position we would like to be in and it will be our earnest endeavor to get to being one of the top teams,” the top-order batter said.
She added: “We do have a lot of young talent and the experience in Jhulan and me to combine well and get to the top places where India should belong and that is our mission Down under. It will be a tough and a challenging series and we want to give it all and our efforts should and will improve the rankings”
Over in South Africa, the early focus in the three-match ODI series between the host and England would be on visiting wicketkeeper-batter Sarah Taylor, who is set to win her 100th ODI cap in Benoni on 7 February. When Taylor will take the field, she will become the 23rd player overall, and seventh Englishwoman to achieve this milestone
England coach Mark Robinson is glad to have her in his squad: “Sarah Taylor is a hugely talented player and has been a key member of the England women’s squad for a decade now, which is a remarkable achievement for someone who is still only 26 years old.
“To have a player with her level of experience, and the ability to do something extraordinary, is a big positive for the squad.”
“The tournament itself presented us with a good opportunity to test our skills in a new environment, alongside exposing us to high pressure situations, and the challenge of being match winners for our teams. I am certain that all of this combined will have helped to develop us as cricketers,” Edwards said.
South Africa is yet to lose a series in the Championship, but in eight ODIs played against England since 2006, South African’s tally reads - played eight, lost eight.
South African Coach Hilton Moreeng is aware that the series against England will be a challenging one.
“We know it is going to be a tough assignment due to the quality of England squad. Our approach will be to take it one match at a time and compete for every point available. The team has done well so far to be in the top four after playing our first three series away from home. It would be a competitive series due to the quality of players in both teams and what is at stake.”
In the MRF ICC Women’s Player Rankings, Lanning leads the batting charts while Sarah Taylor has the chance to stake a sole claim of second position, which she currently shares with Suzie Bates of New Zealand. Fifth-ranked Edwards too has an opportunity to make her way up the rankings as she is just 22 points behind her teammate.
Apart from Raj, India’s Harmanpreet Kaur, who is her side’s leading run-scorer with 215 runs in eight matches is seventh.
Amongst the bowlers, India’s Jhulan Goswami leads the pack. She is 109 points ahead of her closest rival Anisa Mohammed of the West Indies and England’s Katherine Brunt, who share second position. The former India captain has taken 173 wickets to date and needs eight more wickets to move ahead of Australia’s Cathryn Fitzpatrick as the leading wicket-taker in women’s cricket.
Australia’s Ellyse Perry and Erin Osborne are in fifth and ninth places, respectively.
Keep an eye out for some major shifts in these rankings as the ICC Women’s Championship moves into top gear, come February.
India: Mithali Raj (c), Jhulan Goswamy (vc), Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Harmanpreet Kaur, Veda Krishnamurthy, Smriti Mandhana ,Niranjana Nagarajan, Shikha Pandey, Kalpana R, Sneh Rana ,Poonam Raut, MD Thirushkamini, Sushma Verma, Poonam Yadav
Coach: Purnima Rau
Australia: Meg Lanning(c), Alex Blackwell, Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Sarah Coyte, Rene Farrell, Holly Ferling, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt Key
Coach: Matthew Mott
England: Charlotte Edwards (c), Katherine Brunt, Kathryn Cross Georgia Elwiss, Lydia Greenway, Rebecca Grundy, Jenny Gunn, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight (vice-captain), Tammi Beaumont, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt
Coach: Mark Robinson
South Africa: tba
Forthcoming matches in ICC Women’s Championship:
Australia v India
2 Feb – 1st ODI, Canberra
5 Feb – 2nd ODI, Hobart
7 Feb – 3rd ODI, Hobart
South Africa v England
7 Feb – 1st ODI, Benoni
12 Feb – 2nd ODI, Centurion
14 Feb – 3rd ODI, Johannesburg
New Zealand v Australia
20 Feb – 1st ODI, Mount Maunganui
22 Feb – 2nd ODI, Mount Maunganui
24 Feb – 2nd ODI, Mount Maunganui
South Africa vs West Indies
24 Feb – 1st ODI, East London
27 Feb – 2nd ODI, East London
29 Feb – 3rd ODI, East London
MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Team Rankings (after the conclusion of the India-Australia T20I’s on 31 Jan, 2016)
Ranking Team Points
1 Australia 131
2 England 124
3 New Zealand 112
4 India 109
5 West Indies 102
6 South Africa 92
7 Pakistan 80
8 Sri Lanka 72
9 Bangladesh 47
10 Ireland 31
(Developed by David Kendix)
MRF Tyres ICC Women’s ODI Player Rankings (as on 31 January, before the start of India-Australia and South Africa-England series)
Rank Player Team Points Avge Highest Ranking
1 Meg Lanning Aus 796*! 47.21 796 v Eng at Worcester 2015
2= Suzie Bates NZ 717 39.18 734 v WI at Kingston 2013
Sarah Taylor Eng 717 40.22 803 v Aus at Chelmsford 2009
4 Stafanie Taylor WI 702 45.62 765 v Ind at St Kitts (WP) 2012
5 C Edwards Eng 695 38.21 749 v NZ at Lincoln 2015
6 Mithali Raj Ind 679 48.82 839 v Aus at Baroda Vadodara 2004
7 H Kaur Ind 643 35.62 678 v SA at Bangalore 2014
8 Ellyse Perry Aus 640! 38.86 640 v Eng at Worcester 2015
9 Rachel Priest NZ 589! 32.97 589 v SL at Christchurch 2015
10 Alex Blackwell Aus 570 33.29 683 v Ind at Canberra 2008
Rank Player Team Points Avge Highest Ranking
13 Jessica Cameron Aus 555 37.20 660 v Pak at Brisbane 2014
17 Lydia Greenway Eng 543 30.13 664 v NZ at Lincoln 2012
19 Mignon du Preez SA 520 31.82 540 v SL at Potchefstroom 2013
20 Heather Knight Eng 504 28.20 537 v Ind at Scarborough 2014
21 Dane v Niekerk SA 486*! 29.66 486 v Pak at Sharjah 2015
22 Trisha Chetty SA 483 28.75 531 v SL at Potchefstroom 2013
23 Marizanne Kapp SA 474 29.46 539 v SL at Colombo (SSC) 2014
25 Nicole Bolton Aus 433*! 50.54 433 v Eng at Worcester 2015
27 Jhulan Goswami Ind 401 13.44 430 v NZ at Bangalore 2015
29 Natalie Sciver Eng 395* 34.20 428 v Aus at Taunton 2015
30 Lizelle Lee SA 392*! 28.61 392 v Pak at Sharjah 2015
Rank Player Team Points Avge Econ Highest Ranking
1 J Goswami Ind 765 20.98 3.16 796 v Eng at Chennai 2007
2= A Mohammed WI 656 17.72 3.23 704 v Aus at Sydney 2014
K Brunt Eng 656 23.26 3.37 796 v Ind at Mumbai 2013
4 Stafanie Taylor WI 647 18.62 3.09 768 v NZ at Kingston 2013
5 Ellyse Perry Aus 608 24.08 4.25 698 v Ind at Mumbai 2012
6 Shibnam Ismail SA 583* 18.40 3.45 595 v SL at Colombo (SSC) 2014
7 Jenny Gunn Eng 582 27.63 3.77 693 v Ind at Scarborough 2014
8 Dane v Niekerk SA 579* 16.13 3.24 583 v Ind at Bangalore 2014
9 Erin Osborne Aus 552 25.18 4.02 581 v Eng at Melbourne 2014
10 Sana Mir Pak 550 25.10 3.46 610 v SA at Sharjah 2015
Rank Player Team Points Ave Econ Highest Ranking
12 Sunette Loubser SA 526* 17.40 3.06 568 v Pak at Doha 2014
14 Sarah Coyte Aus 509*! 21.11 4.19 509 v Eng at Worcester 2015
16 Danielle Hazell Eng 503* 33.91 3.91 545 v NZ at Lincoln 2015
17 Ekta Bisht Ind 500*! 21.59 3.55 500 v NZ at Bangalore 2015
18 Marizanne Kapp SA 498* 24.24 3.59 533 v Ind at Bangalore 2014
19 Jess Jonassen Aus 476*! 22.18 4.25 476 v Eng at Worcester 2015
20 Anya Shrubsole Eng 469*! 29.65 4.26 469 v Aus at Worcester 2015
25 Laura Marsh Eng 428 27.90 3.90 711 v Aus at Perth 2011
27 Marcia Letsoalo SA 417*! 34.30 3.38 417 v Pak at Sharjah 2015
28 R Gayakwad Ind 413*! 15.16 2.70 413 v NZ at Bangalore 2015
Rank Player Team Points Highest Ranking
1 Stafanie Taylor WI 454 560 v NZ at Kingston 2013
2 Ellyse Perry Aus 389! 389 v Eng at Worcester 2015
3 Suzie Bates NZ 315! 315 v SL at Christchurch 2015
4 J Goswami Ind 307! 307 v NZ at Bangalore 2015
5 Dane v Niekerk SA 281*/*! 281 v Pak at Sharjah 201