A game in which both teams left the field happy, set up the final of the Women's T20 Challenge, with Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas finally living up to their on-paper strength and beating the Velocity by 12 runs. Both teams will meet again on Saturday.
Here are the major talking points from the game:
She’s not only winning fans off the pitch for her short video skills, she’s also charming viewers and opposition bowlers alike with her batting. Jemimah Rodrigues played a sublime knock of 77, which stood out not only for the pace at which she scored, but also the ease. On a pitch where the strike rates of the other internationals were 100, 81.5, 64.2 and 20, Rodrigues scored at 160.4, with her unbeaten knock coming off just 48 balls.
With the Supernovas asked to bat first, Rodrigues came in at the fall of the first wicket in the fifth over, and scored at a fair clip right from the outset. She opened her account with a glorious drive on the up through covers, followed by a straight drive that beat even long on. Sweeps, slogs, and shuffles all got her runs, but she scored runs from deft touches too. She enjoyed the pace on the ball, with the Velocity playing three medium-fast bowlers, and her one six came off one of them.
It was the kind of knock that sets phones ringing with messages that go, ‘Dude, are you watching this? If you’re not, turn on the TV now!’ And hopefully, for her, it is also the kind of knock that will open doors.
Poonam Yadav’s choke-hold spell
Harmanpreet Kaur usually has a set plan after the Powerplay: bring on Poonam Yadav immediately. This time though, Poonam was introduced in the 10th over, which meant the Velocity had three of her overs to negotiate in the second half of the chase.
That chase was stymied significantly when Poonam took the wicket of Danielle Wyatt in the 11th. Wyatt scored a breezy 43 (33 balls), until she was bowled around her legs. That wicket triggered a change in approach from the Velocity, who shut shop and plodded towards the 117 runs they needed to get to qualify for the final. Poonam returned with figures of 1 for 13 in her four overs, with no boundaries conceded.
Perhaps one reason the Velocity decided to take no further risks was the PY Factor, knowing how difficult it is to score against her. A consistent performer in international cricket over the last two years, Poonam has even earned herself an upgrade into the ‘A’ category of central contracts. The one box that remains to be ticked is a call-up to an overseas league. For her as well as Rodrigues, this tournament might prove to be a stepping stone to bigger things.
After the dismissal of Wyatt, there was a clear attempt from the Velocity to avoid risks and get into the final. And so the pair of Mithali Raj and Veda Krishnamurthy hit just one boundary in the next 42 balls. “Initially we thought that if the openers give us a good start we will definitely play to win, but considering we lost two early wickets, chasing 142 on this wicket you needed batters in,” said Mithali after the game. “And we didn’t have that much batting depth. I know that our batting line-up depends mostly on the top order. So it was important that one of us stayed.”
It made for unattractive cricket though, and considering the bigger context of these games, one wonders whether more risks could have been taken. The unfortunate reality is that it falls to all the players to grow the game; if this series provides enough spectacle, it will hasten the realisation of a full-fledged Women’s IPL in the future. Velocity had three capped players yet to bat: all-rounders Shikha Pandey and Amelia Kerr, and wicketkeeper Sushma Verma. But no doubt, the collapse of the previous evening, where they lost five wickets for no runs when just two away from victory, would have played on the minds of the team.
Veda, after the game, said, “We had a certain target to get, so we were asked to play accordingly,” indicating that the batters were given a clear mandate, which, to their credit, they ticked off. Once a player is in the middle, the blinkers are on and they focus only on the immediate goals, so it is hard to expect them to think of the bigger picture. But with these games still essentially being exhibition games, perhaps a message from the outside was in order.
It reflects poorly on the standard of Indian cricket if a team has to play safe from 77 for 3, chasing 143. But what might be more painful is admitting that this is not far from the truth.