Women's T20 Challenge 2019: Road to the finals
BCCI organised the Women's T20 Challenge 2019 in order to promote women's cricket and also give a dry run to the possibility of Women's IPL in the near future. Three teams were announced with players from India, New Zealand, West Indies, England, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur were given the reins of Velocity, Trailblazers and Supernovas respectively. As we await the final of this tournament between Velocity and Supernovas, let us look back at the tournament so far.
Chamari Athapaththu, Jemimah Rodrigues, Priya Punia, Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Sophie Devine, Anuja Patil, Natalie Sciver, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Arundhati Reddy, Lea Tahuhu, Mansi Joshi, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav.
The Supernovas are definitely the strongest side of the tournament. They have destructive batters like Athapaththu, Jemimah and Harman & great all-rounders like Devine and Sciver. They also possess one of the fastest bowlers in women's cricket in Lea Tahuhuright and no.2 ranked T20I bowler in Poonam Yadav.
It is not surprising that they are in the finals.
Smriti Mandhana (c), Dayalan Hemalatha, Jasia Akhtar, Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol, Stafanie Taylor, Suzie Bates, Shakera Selman, Ravi Kalpana (wk), Bharati Fulmali, Jhulan Goswami, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sophie Ecclestone.
The Trailblazers led by the ICC Women's Cricketer of the year, Smriti Mandhana had a pretty strong team with the likes of Suzie Bates, the No 1 T20I batter in the world now and all-rounders like Stafanie Taylor, Deepti Sharma in their ranks. They had a well-balanced bowling attack with the experienced veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami in their ranks along with Ecclestone , Selman and Rajeshwari to provide variety to the attack.
It is a bit of a surprise that this team is out of the tournament now.
Mithali Raj (c), Danielle Wyatt, Devika Vaidya, Shafali Verma, Veda Krishnamurthy, Hayley Mathews, Shikha Pandey, Sushma Verma (wk), Amelia Kerr, Ekta Bisht, Jahanara Alam, Komal Zanzad, Sushree Pradhan.
Velocity is the most inexperienced team in the tournament led by the experienced campaigner, Mithali Raj. The team has only two all-rounders, a very weak batting line up which has been mostly dependent on the aggressors Wyatt and Shafali and the anchor Mithali. Two of the three uncapped players in the league are also in this team.
Given their limited resources, Velocity has done really well to qualify for the finals. Inexperienced players like the 15-year-old Shafali Verma has risen to the cause of the team and some brilliant tactics and smart captaincy from the Indian ODI team captain has taken the team through to the finals.
The Jaipur pitch was slow and the ball was not coming on to the bat. Amidst all this, Smriti Mandhana crafted a beautiful innings of 90 off 67 balls. It was complimented well by Harleen Deol's 36 off 44 balls. It was difficult to bat on the pitch and Trailblazers batting first posted a total of 140 on the board.
Supernovas came out to chase the total but lost quick wickets. Harmanpreet then took her time to settle down. She along with Sophie Devine took the match to the last ball but failed to take their team over the line and lost the match by 2 runs.
Mithali Raj won the toss and asked Mandhana's Trailblazers to bat first. The Trailblazers' batters failed to get going and nobody other than Harleen Deol, who made 43 off 40 balls, could make an impact. Mithali rotated her bowlers around perfectly and restricted the opponent to 112.
In reply, Velocity was given a good start by Shafali Verma, who played a beautiful knock of 34. Wyatt got going from the other end and the team was cruising towards a victory at 111-2. With only 2 runs needed to win, Velocity was then reduced to 111-7, due to some poor running between the wickets and cross-batted shots, exposing the lack of depth in their batting line up. They finally went on to the win the match with 2 overs to spare.
Supernovas' batters struggled in the initial period as the pitch was slow. Jemimah's well-composed 77* and Athapaththu's 31 got their score upto 142. They were also helped by some poor fielding by their opponents.
The wonderkid Shafali Verma and Mathews were sent back quickly by the Supernovas spinners.Only 3 recognised batters were left in the hut in Wyatt, Mithali and Veda. Velocity tried to chase down the target with Wyatt hitting a wonderful 43 off 33 balls. With the wicket of Wyatt down, and the memories of the previous match's collapse fresh in their mind, the team took a calculative decision of first reaching the target of 117, which would ensure that they reached the finals. A 53-run stand between skipper Raj and Veda wasn't good enough to win the match but saw the team through to the finals.
Saturday's final will be between the strongest team in the tournament against the weakest team in the tournament.
Though Supernovas have a very strong side, they have failed to make the best use of their world class players like Tahuhu, Devine and Sciver are yet to come good.
On the other hand, Mithali Raj has made some very good decisions and rotated her bowlers really well. Players like Bisht, Kerr, Shafali and Wyatt have pretty much stood up to the task and Velocity has done really well to have reached the final with such an inexperienced team.
It will be a gripping final as India's T20I captain and India's ODI captain lock horns against each other. Purely based on the teams, Supernovas will be going in as the favourites and Velocity will be going in as the underdogs.
Will the Supernovas walk away with the cup or will the underdogs cause an upset?