England Women's biggest challenge would be to play on the slower surfaces in Galle. © Getty Images

England, winners of the inaugural edition of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 in 2009, start their campaign against Pakistan in a Group A match in Galle on Thursday.

England come into the tournament with sufficient match practice, having beaten West Indies 4-1 in a Twenty20 International series recently. However, their biggest challenge would be to play on slower surfaces in Galle, something that Charlotte Edwards, the captain, has harped on.

Crucial to their chances will be the form of Sarah Taylor, who was named the ICC Women’s T20 player of the year for 2011, after scoring 340 runs at an average of nearly 50. England started their preparations with a comprehensive 121-run win over South Africa in a warm-up game on Saturday. The match saw significant contributions from Edwards, Laura Marsh and Lydia Greenway, an indication that the batting is near its best.

Edwards also believes that the disappointment of making an exit from the group stages in 2010 is extra motivation for the team this time around. “That was a huge low, but we can’t keep dwelling on that,” said Edwards. “That was the turning point for us as a team, so I only see it as a positive now. We’ve moved on and it’s good that it hurts.”

England would be wary of Pakistan, definite underdogs going into the game. Pakistan, which have lost all three group stage matches in both editions of the Women’s World Twenty20, have a lot to prove. Sana Mir, the captain, believes the side is more than capable of causing flutters in the opposition camp. “We are a much improved side from before,” said Mir. “We’ve played a lot of cricket recently. Yes, it is a test for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

Mir is the only Pakistani in the top ten of the ICC Women’s Twenty20 rankings for bowlers. The batting fortunes will hinge on Javeria Khan, who had a good outing in Ireland. That tour also gave glimpses of their batting quality when Nain Abidi scored the first-ever ODI century by a Pakistani, against Ireland.

Pakistan would also take some confidence from their four-wicket win in the warm-up fixture against Sri Lanka on Saturday. The team will look to capitalise on recent successes, as they won the tri-series in Ireland and also a one-off one-dayer against Bangladesh. England, however, will provide a much sterner test.