It was the last ball of the match, and the Trailblazers – who had already qualified for the final – needed four runs. The Velocity cricketers somewhere watched expectantly as Sophie Ecclestone took strike for the first time in the tournament. Radha Yadav, who had taken out a dangerous Harleen Deol the previous ball, now switched to over the wicket. Ecclestone attempted a slog, the ball hit her pads, and the Supernovas qualified.
Despite making it to the final, however, the Supernovas have some obvious problems. To begin with, their batting in the two matches has been almost entirely dependent on Chamari Athapaththu and Harmanpreet Kaur – the top two run-scorers in this edition across teams. The others have not matched their lofty standards. Unless that happens in the final, they are unlikely to score big against the best bowling attack in the tournament.
|Supernovas batters in WT20C league phase|
|Rest of the team||78||97||80.4||7||0|
But let us return to Athapaththu, who was probably determined to not commit the same mistake as the Velocity batters. Unlike theirs, her footwork was decisive. She drove, slog-swept, and pulled against the spinners, middled nearly everything, and did not hesitate to loft the ball. That allowed Priya Punia to ease in and rotate strike; the pair added 89 in 72 balls for the first wicket – nearly twice the Velocity score of 47 in Match 2.
Kaur joined in as well, punctuating her hard-run ones and twos with a four and a six. The Trailblazers spinners never managed the to put the stranglehold of the previous night. Between them, they managed only 31 dot balls in 96 balls. Take away Ecclestone, and the count read 20 in 72. For perspective, they had 52 in 73 the other night (37 in 54 without Ecclestone).
But even that might not have been enough for the Supernovas, more so because Kaur seemed reluctant to bring on Poonam Yadav against the left-handers Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma. It is an oft-used strategy, but on this day, it meant that Poonam – the best Indian bowler in the format – bowled a solitary over, the 18th, and failed to prevent the Harleen Deol (27* in 15 balls) onslaught. It took some intelligent bowling from Radha (4-0-30-2) under pressure to seal the match.
Sharma and Deol – neither of whom had not got a chance to bat against Velocity – had nearly sealed an improbable win. After Deandra Dottin had got them to a whirlwind start with her 15-ball 27, the Trailblazers lost their way, largely due to Anuja Patil (4-0-18-0). They needed 56 in five overs when the pair got together.
Despite the eventual failure, the chase demonstrated the depth of the Trailblazers batting line-up. Even after utilising six batters, they had another specialist (Nattakan Chantam), a bona-fide all-rounder (Salma Khatun), and a big hitter (Jhulan Goswami) left.
The Supernovas may match the Trailblazers in bowling, but the depth in the latter’s batting line-up make them favourites going into the final.
Let us now turn to another problem.
According to an interview with ESPNCricinfo, Mithali Raj and Kaur, India’s captains across formats, had marked out Manali Dakshini, M Anagha, and Ayushi Soni as India’s future prospects. In this edition, Anagha and Dakshini were both assigned to Velocity. Anagha did not get a match, Dakshini bowled three overs, and Soni, one of the most talented all-rounders in the country, has not got a match either (for the Supernovas). In fact, between them, the eight uncapped Indian cricketers have played two matches and bowled four overs.
|Uncapped Indian cricketers in Women’s T20 Challenge 2020 (till league phase)|
|Team||Player||M||R||B||Econ||Players without a match|
|Supernovas||Muskan Malik, Ayushi Soni|
|Trailblazers||Simran Bahadur, Kashvee Gautam|
|Velocity||Manali Dakshini||1||18||7.67||M Anagha, Meghna Singh|
Shafali Varma had lit up the last edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge with some incredible batting. In less than a year’s time, she went on to become the toast of the nation in the T20 World Cup. That will not happen this time, for India’s uncapped cricketers – who have not had match practice for months anyway – have been unable to showcase their abilities at this level for no fault of their own.
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Representing Trailblazers, Sharma scored an unbeaten 43 in their match against Supernovas on Saturday, but could not help her team to victory.
TRAILBLAZERS ARE THE NEW CHAMPIONS! For the first time, we don’t see Harmanpreet Kaur and Co lifting the trophy in the Women’s T20 Challenge as Smriti Mandhana’s side pull off a 16-run win!
Chasing a modest 127, Velocity were 38 for three inside nine overs but Luus took them over the line with her calm-headed 37-run knock that came off 21 balls with four fours and a six.