The Women’s T20 Challenge 2020 – it still feels like a bit of an afterthought. But here we are, three matches in, and it’s the final now, between Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas and Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers.
This tournament was to feature four teams, but went back to three, like last season, leaving one team with the prospect of being knocked out after one bad game and packing their bags within 48 hours of starting out. That unfortunate team was Velocity, captained by Mithali Raj. They slumped to 47 all out less than a day after securing an impressive last-over win in the tournament opener against Supernovas.
On Saturday, Velocity needed a favour from the same side that caused all the damage for them – Trailblazers. But Mandhana’s team couldn’t score the ten needed in the final over to secure a win and leave Supernovas winless. They will have a chance again, even if it means nothing for Raj’s team.
So Jhulan Goswami vs Mandhana. Poonam Yadav vs Deepti Sharma. Sophie Ecclestone, the top-ranked women’s T20I bowler, trying to contain the big-hitting Chamari Athapaththu, Deandra Dottin looking to go big against Ayabonga Khaka… sub-plots to watch out for, the phases in the game that might make this one go down to the wire too, like their 146 for 6 vs 144 for 5 contest the other day.
Players to watch
In last year’s final, Radha Yadav calmly stepped out to scythe a full ball to the boundary to clinch the title for Supernovas. It was astonishing in a sense, because for a while it seemed as if the chase was solely dependent on Kaur. On Saturday, Radha delivered with her accurate left-arm spin – varying her pace, lengths and angles to defend ten off the final over to put her side in the final. Radha is all of 20, already into her third year as an international cricketer. Her improvement can only mean great signs for Indian women’s cricket with the amount of cricket they have coming up in the next 18 months – a 50-over World Cup, a T20 World Cup and the Commonwealth Games, apart from the bilaterals in the run-up to those events.
Chamari Athapaththu doesn’t get the kind of attention some of the other big-hitting batters in women’s cricket get. She isn’t talked of in the same league as, say, Stafanie Taylor or Suzie Bates or Alyssa Healy mainly because Sri Lanka aren’t among the top teams, and she carries the batting single-handedly. On Saturday, by shredding some top-quality bowlers to make a match-winning 48-ball 67, with five sixes, she gave glimpses of what she can do if she has the freedom to play her own game without having to worry about the rest of the order.
Jemimah Rodrigues has a lively presence on the field and off it. She plays the guitar, she plays hockey, she dances, she isn’t too shabby an interviewer either… but her two outings so far have resulted in two single-digit scores. This is a good time to remind her many fans of her batting skills too – Rodrigues can kill them softly, play the gaps the way Raj does; it’s time to show off those skills too.
Supernovas: 1 Chamari Athapaththu, 2 Priya Punia, 3 Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), 4 Jemimah Rodrigues, 5 Shashikala Siriwardene, 6 Anuja Patil/Pooja Vastrakar, 7 Radha Yadav, 8 Taniya Bhatia (wk), 9 Poonam Yadav, 10 Shakera Selman, 11 Ayabonga Khaka
Trailblazers: 1 Smriti Mandhana (capt), 2 Deandra Dottin, 3 Richa Ghosh (wk), 4 Deepti Sharma, 5 D Hemalatha, 6 Harleen Deol, 7 Sophie Ecclestone, 8 Salma Khatun, 9 Natakkan Chantam, 10 Rajeshwari Gayakwad, 11 Jhulan Goswami
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