Thanks to the Sophie Ecclestone (3.1-1-9-4) & Co, Match 2 of the Women’s T20 Challenge lasted a mere 23 overs. That the Trailblazers have the best bowling attack of the three sides was more or less evident before the tournament, but this was an incredible performance even by their expected standards. Velocity were bowled out for 47, a total that – somewhat unbelievably – included three double-digit scores.
There was a similarity in several of the dismissals. Mithali Raj remained rooted to the crease when the ball was probably too full for that. She tried to manoeuvre it, missed, and was trapped leg-before. Whether she was deceived in flight or left in two minds is debatable.
Veda Krishnamurthy, who faced the next ball, clearly seemed to be in two minds. She wanted to step out, then go back and cut, to one that landed on length and spat through to hit middle stump. Almost taking cue, Sushma Verma, one of the stars of previous night’s win, made the same mistake of playing a good-length ball from the crease. She tried to steer a ball from the stumps and was bowled.
Sune Luus, the other star of previous night, was beaten in flight by Rajeshwari Gayakwad. And then, off the next ball, Sushree Dibyadarshini committed the same error – of trying to play a flighted ball from the crease.
It was the same story throughout the innings. The spinners shared seven wickets. When Ecclestone bowled to a length, they did not know whether it will crash into the pads or turn slowly; when Gayakwad tossed one up they seldom read her flight; and Sharma, and later Salma Khatun, kept the pressure on with their accuracy and change of pace.
It had been evident during the first match, between Velocity and the Supernovas, that this pitch will play slow, and spinners would play a role. The four experienced professionals, with their guile, accuracy, and variations, made the most of it.
Between them, the four Supernovas spinners bowled 52 dot balls out of 73. Between them they conceded three boundaries, two of which came in the space of five balls.
In between all this, let us not forget Jhulan Goswami, who has played only one high-level T20 match (against Trailblazers, May 2019) in the past 29 months. She was expected to be rusty. She might not have retained the same pace. Even if she did, she might not have been as effective on this slow pitch. After all, she will turn thirty-eight this month.
It certainly looked bad when Shafali Verma dismissed her fourth ball through extra cover. Replays confirmed that Goswami had overstepped. The fears seemed to come true.
And then she struck. Varma might have hit Ecclestone for six in the previous over, but trying to steer one off the back foot from Goswami – that too to one on the stumps – was not expected to have worked. It did not.
Then Goswami went after Danni Wyatt. Over years, Wyatt has always been brutal to anything pitched on leg, but there was no way Goswami was going to feed her there. Even when Wyatt got a free hit, Goswami restrained her with a yorker well outside off.
The outside-off line, combined with the pace, got to Wyatt after a while (to be fair, it would have got to anyone). She holed out tamely to mid-off. It was a hard-earned, well-thought-out wicket.
Velocity’s humongous margin of defeat meant that the net run rate has as good as gone out of the equation. All the Supernovas now have to do to qualify is win the third match. Unfortunately, it will not be an easy task, for the Trailblazers are unlikely to provide any sort of respite.
The spinners, all excellent, were different in style, hence formidable as a quartet. And the only fast bowler is probably the best in the tournament, while Deandra Dottin has resumed bowling.
To add to that, Smriti Mandhana deployed Richa Ghosh behind the stumps ahead of the specialist Nuzhat Parveen. This means that the batting goes till Khatun at No. 8, with Goswami and her powerful big hits to follow.
As for Ghosh, not only did she play some delightful strokes (albeit without pressure), she also impressed behind the stumps, especially by standing up to the stumps to Goswami – never an easy task. As a result, Varma, whose strength lies in hard-hit drives, was probably caught in two minds when she tried to steer off the back foot.
The best bet for the Supernovas, then, is to remember how the batters from both sides had got their runs in the first match. Chamari Athapaththu strode confidently when she expanded into those fantastic sixes, while Harmanpreet Kaur used brute force. But more importantly, they rotated strike and did not let the dot balls mount up.
For Velocity, too, Verma had used positive footwork, coming down the track to loft Poonam Yadav over her head. Luus had swept hard, forcing the spinners to alter their length.
But more importantly, seldom were the batters left in two minds against the spinners. The Supernovas need to keep that in mind before stepping out against the best bowling attack of the tournament. And, of course, go after Goswami in the Powerplay overs.
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The Indian players returned to action after a six-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with the world still going through the health crisis, their playing future remains uncertain.
Supernovas need a win and that will bring the net run-rate into play and possibly eliminate Velocity who have a negative NRR (-1.869).
Sushree Dibyadarshini, right-arm off break, comes into the attack. Dottin is the mood to finish this in a jiffy. But it is young Richa Ghosh, who smacks a boundary off the last ball. Nine runs off the over. Trailblazers need 11 runs in 78 balls.