Smriti Mandhana gets off to the perfect start in debut KSL season
Indian recruit Smriti Mandhana was on song at Taunton last night in her Kia Super League debut match. Playing for last years' winners Western Storm against Yorkshire Diamonds, she set the chase alight right from the word go before skipper Heather Knight took over from her and an 62 ball 97 from her bat meant that the visitors were handed a heavy defeat in their first match of the season.
Mandhana, who is playing her first ever overseas league, stabilized Storms' early jitters as they lost Kiwi import Rachel Priest, trapped in front of the stumps on the first ball of the innings. Mandhana took over from there in the chase of 163 runs, and plundered 48 runs in as few as 20 deliveries.
She put her indifferent run in the Asia Cup last month behind her and went about trusting her attacking brand of batting. By the time she was dismissed, the scorecard read 2/80 after 8 overs. With just 83 runs to get from the 12 remaining overs, it became a walk in the park for her team. In the most limited balls she faced, eight were sent crashing past the boundary, with five of those sailing over it.
Knight was unlucky to miss out on a well deserved century, as she holed out with two runs needed to finish off the match and three to get to the magical three figure mark. But her thrilling effort ensured that Western Storm topped the table in the beginning of the league and have the right momentum to repeat their exploits of last season.
Winning in 15.3 overs also handed them an additional bonus point, which might come in extremely handy when things get tighter and teams become virtually inseparable on the ladder in the later phases of the tournament.
Alongside Mandhana, the Indian T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur will also feature in the KSL, playing for Lancashire Thunder. It will be interesting to watch out for her since she has been in great touch for India lately. The duo's participation is a great catalyst for women's cricket in India, which is not only becoming more popular with the day, but is also coming up as a financially lucrative field of play.