Review | WT20 Challenge Group Stage
Written By: Ritwika Dhar
Picture Courtesy: IPL/BCCI
Trailblazers v Supernovas: Supernovas registered a thumping victory over the defending champions Trailblazers
The opening game of the much-awaited WT20 Challenge was between the oldest rivals - Trailblazers and Supernovas at Pune.
Trailblazers won the toss and invited Supernovas to bat first. Given their strong batting line-up and a good batting surface at the MCA Stadium, it was a good decision to bowl first. But S. Meghana’s exclusion from the Trailblazers' first XI came as a surprise. On the other hand, right-arm off-break Chandu V. got a chance in the Supernovas' playing XI.
The opening pair of Priya Punia and Deandra Dottin was off to a flying start. By dispatching the last ball of the 1st over for six, Punia made her intentions very clear. Dottin on the other end, was as usual playing her destructive game. She scored a quickfire 32 off 17 before Sharmin ran her out with an amazing direct hit from mid-wicket. And with Dottin’s dismissal, Trailblazers broke their 50-run opening stand. After 2 overs, Punia (22 off 20) was sent back as well by Hayley Matthews. Harleen Deol and Harmanpreet Kaur started rebuilding the innings. Deol played a quick hand of 35 in just 19 deliveries before Salma Khatun caught her LBW.
A flurry of wickets was falling at one end but captain Kaur held the innings together. From 100-3, she took Supernovas to 160-6. But on the last ball of the 19th over, a terrible miscommunication between Ecclestone and Kaur led to Kaur’s run-out on 37 off 29. And that run-out resulted in 3 wickets and only 3 runs from the last over. Supernovas ended their innings on 163. Given the start, they could have added 10 to 20 runs more to the total, but they managed a par score on this surface.
In response, Mandhana (34 off 23) and Matthews (18 off 14) started well and stitched a 39-run opening partnership. But Indian speedster Vastrakar impeded their swift chase. She cleaned up both the openers and ended up with an amazing figure of 4/12. They lost 5 wickets in 10 runs and from 63/2, they were reduced to 73/7. Jemimah Rodrigues tried her best to keep Trailblazers in the game, but Meghna Singh ended that last hope by dismissing her on 24 off 21. Rodrigues slapped hard towards the sweeper cover where Deol dived forward to pull off a spectacular grab. Earlier, Punia took two superb catches in the infield to dismiss Mandhana and Dunkley. With these all-round fielding efforts, they completely derailed the Trailblazers' chase and registered a thumping victory of 49 runs. This was the largest victory in terms of runs in the history of the WT20 Challenge. The overseas spinners King and Ecclestone made some valuable contributions by picking up 2 wickets.
Vastrakar won the Player of the Match award for her match-winning spell of 4/12, the best spell in the history of this tournament from a pacer.
Supernovas – 163 (20) H. Kaur 37 (29), H. Deol 35 (19); H. Matthews 3/29 (4), S. Khatun 2/30 (4)
Trailblazers – 114/9 (20) S. Mandhana 34 (23), J. Rodrigues 24 (21); P. Vastrakar 4/12 (4), S. Ecclestone 2/19 (4)
Supernovas v Velocity: Shafali, Wolvaardt pulled off a record chase and Velocity put one foot in the finals
After just 15 hours, Supernovas locked horns with Velocity. This was a brand new Velocity side with a new pair of captain and vice-captain, Deepti Sharma and Sneh Rana respectively. Sharma's decision to bowl first left everyone surprised as teams generally had success while batting first on this surface after winning the toss. Supernovas fielded the same XI. Whereas, Velocity came out with the domestic sensations Kiran Navgire and Maya Sonawane in their team with Yastika Bhatia donning the gloves.
The bowling group stood up to the captain's expectations in the powerplay. Kate Cross picked up Punia and Deol's wicket with her accurate line & length. Whereas captain Sharma herself plucked the wicket of dangerous Dottin which reduced Supernovas to only18-3 after 4 overs. Harmanpreet Kaur and Taniya Bhatia rebuilt the innings and ensured no further collapse. They took Supernovas from 18-3 to 100-3 before Yastika and Khaka combined to run Taniya out on 36 off 32. With that dismissal, the mammoth 82-run 4th wicket partnership came to an end.
Harmanpreet continued to whack the ball outside the park. She pounced on the uncapped Paul Adam-esque leggie Maya Sonawane. Khaka's expensive spell of 0-28 in 3 overs and continuous feeding from the bowlers on the leg-stump line helped Harmanpreet to accumulate 71 off 51. This was her 2nd WT20 Challenge half-century in which 56 runs came against spin. But Radha Yadav got the better of her and bowled her out on the last delivery of the 19th over. With the help of Sune Luus' late flourish of 20 off 14, Supernovas reached the 150 run-mark after 20 overs. The over-reliance on spinners cost Velocity to have a steep chase on their hand. No team had chased a target of 150 or more yet.
They didn’t get an ideal start as Chantham got out early on just 1 to Vastrakar. But Shafali had other plans. She weaved a 63-run partnership with Yastika and tonked the fastest 50 in the WT20 Challenge history. It came off 30 deliveries as was looking to go big before Harman plucked an absolute screamer flying at the short third to remove her on 51 off 33. Yastika was also sent back by Dottin with a beautiful fuller-length delivery that ended up uprooting the leg-stump. They still needed 70 runs in the last 10 overs. Skipper Deepti joined the crafty Protea batter Laura Wolvaardt in the middle. But the 14th over by Harmanpreet Kaur shifted the momentum towards Velocity. It went for 12 runs including back-to-back fours from Wolvaardt’s bat. Also, the no. 1 T20I bowler, Ecclestone was expensive with 32 runs in her 4 overs including 2 overs of 10 runs each. Wolvaardt took the onus on her and Deepti played a perfect supporting role in that partnership of 71 runs. Wolvaardt with an unbeaten 51 off 35 and Deepti with her responsible 24 off 25 saw Velocity home with 9 balls to spare.
Harmanpreet Kaur won the Player of the Match for her 71 off 51.
Supernovas – 150-5 (20) H. Kaur 71 (51), T. Bhatia 36 (32); K. Cross 2/24 (4), R. Yadav 1/22 (3)
Velocity – 151-3 (18.2) S. Verma 51 (33), L. Wolvaardt 51* (35); D. Dottin 2/21 (3.2), P. Vastrakar 1/27 (3)
Velocity vs Trailblazers: Meghana's match-winning 72 went in vain as scintillating Navgire took Velocity through to the finals
Trailblazers who suffered a terrible loss in the 1st match could still qualify for the final if they beat Velocity by 31 runs or chase down the total in 15.3 overs. On the other hand, Velocity just needed to win the game to qualify or have to outlast these margins even if they lose the game.
Deepti Sharma won the toss and decided to bowl first. This was the same pitch on which the 2nd game had been played. And we witnessed how batting-friendly it was. As Trailblazers had to put up a huge score on the board, they fielded S. Meghana in place of overseas batter Sharmin Akhter. She came out to open the innings alongside captain Mandhana. Kate Cross once again gave the first breakthrough to Velocity by dismissing the marquee wicket of Mandhana. But the fire of Meghana and poise of Rodrigues paved the way for a record-breaking total.
In her debut WT20 Challenge innings, Meghana smashed a brilliant 73 off 47. From the 1st over itself, she dispatched most of the deliveries down the ground. She scored a total of 44 runs in that V. Rodrigues on the other end, kept rotating the strike and milking away the bad deliveries to the fence. But they couldn't have shared a mammoth 113-run partnership if Velocity fielders didn't drop 4 catches, which 3 times in Simran Bahadur's bowling who replaced Maya Sonawane in the XI. But on 14.3 over, Sneh Rana finally opened the gate of wickets by dismissing Meghana. After 2 overs, Khaka sent Rodrigues back to the dugout on 66 off 44. A late flourish from Dunkley (19 off 8) and Matthews (27 off 16) helped the Trailblazers to add 33 runs to the total. And they posted 190-5 which is the highest total in the history of the WT20 Challenge.
The target for both teams became clear. For Velocity, they had to score 159 runs and Trailblazers needed to restrict them under it to qualify for the final. Velocity sent a new opening pair of Shafali and Yastika and They were off to a flying start with 50 runs in 5 overs. Pacers Renuka Singh and Arundhati Reddy were expensive. But spinners were doing the job for Trailblazers. Salma Khatun bowled out Yastika on 19 (15), whereas Gayakwad got the better of Shafali (29 off 15) and Deepti. Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav too sent back Wolvaaardt on 17 off 16. Velocity might not reach the required 159 runs if the Senior T20 Trophy's star performer Kiran Navgire wouldn't have live-up to her reputation. She commenced her innings with a six and reached the fastest 50 of the tournament history with a huge six over the long-on. Despite the flurry of wickets they lost, Velocity managed to acquire the qualifying target of 159 in the 18th over. Eventually, the Trailblazers beat them by 16 runs.
Kiran Navgire won the Player of the Match award for her scintillating knock of 69 off 34 including 5 huge sixes landed in the stands.
If Trailblazers look back to their campaign, the decisions of dropping Meghana in the first game and not giving chance to the left-arm pacer Sharaddha Pokaharkar in any of the games could have been a good weapon to the bowling attacking shall hurt them. On the other hand, in her first outing as a captain, Deepti Sharma did a good job of using her resources. Except for a few questionable bowling changes, she made some very good calls like keeping with Yastika, giving bowling to Shafali who did a good job with the ball in domestics, and giving chances to young bowlers Sonawane and Bahadur. Also playing Navgire in the middle-order rather than opening with her is a good call for the future if she wants to be in the India squad, she has to be flexible in the batting order. Irrespective of win and loss, this game has been a great advertisement for the women's game and a stepping stone for the Women's IPL.
Trailblazers – 190-5 (20) S. Meghana 73 (47), J. Rodrigues 66 (44); S. Bahadur 2/31 (3), K. Cross 1/27 (3)
Velocity – 174-9 (20) KP Navgire 69 (34), S. Verma 29 (15); P. Yadav 2/33 (4), R. Gayakwad 2/44 (4)