The three-match league round of the ongoing Women’s T20 Challenge 2019 has already thrown up a last-ball nail-biter, a low-scoring thriller, a controversy, unearthed and revived talents and a progressively improving headcount through the week. At the end of it all, two teams have survived – Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas and Mithali Raj’s Velocity, and will be vying for the silverware in Saturday’s final showdown.
Since Velocity controversially chose to take the safer path to the final instead of going for a win in their last league game against the same opponent on Thursday, Supernovas would know that their 12-run victory counts for little. Raj & Co. shut shop early, at the dismissal of destructive No. 3 Danielle Wyatt, “calculatingly” crawling their way to 117 – the qualification mark given the NRR in standings table – to knock Trailblazers out of the final contention and, more importantly, setting up a rematch with Supernovas in this winners-takes-all contest.
Supernovas, inarguably, look the stronger on paper, with envious batting depth and plethora of bowling options in the starting XI. The bowling is led by Indian spin trioka of the two Yadavs – Poonam and Radha – and Anuja Patil, and the foreign star attractions provide reliable pace options. They have an assortment of powerful hitters comprising their batting core – from Chamari Athapaththu to Jemimah Rodrigues, from Sophie Devine to Harmanpreet Kaur – and bat up to No. 9.
Velocity also enjoy a similar luxury though they don’t seem so confident about it with skipper Raj and Veda Krishnamurthy both openly sounding apprehensive of their lower middle order’s abilities and weren’t willing to expose them to “pressure situation” even if it meant letting go of an outright win to make a statement ahead of the big final. Ironically enough, they have trusted in the destructive abilities of a little-known 15-year-old Shafali Verma at the top of the order and, fortunately, had little reason to regret that decision.
If it’s any encouragement, the crowd numbers hit its peak on Thursday – for the same match-up – with RCA opening a total of four stands and filling it nearly to the brim. The night game over the weekend is expected to surmount that number.
When:Supernovas vs Velocity, Final on Saturday May 11 at 7:30 PM IST
Where:Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur
What to expect: The pitches have been on the slower side and 140-odd runs have been a winning score on both the strips used so far. Partly cloudy and a breezy evening is in store with mercury likely to dip to about 34 degrees before the match starts.
Supernovas: In a team with abundance of medium-pace resources, it’s unfortunate that youngsters Mansi Joshi and Arundhati Reddy have had to sit out in both league games as Supernovas fielded unchanged side. In fact, in their defence of 142 against the same opponent, Supernovas did not even use the services of Lea Tahuhu. It’s unlikely they’ll tweak their playing XI, but if they do the New Zealand pacer could sit out for an Indian who’s only warmed the benches so far.
Probable XI:Priya Punia, Chamari Athapaththu, Jemimah Rodrigues, Sophie Devine, Harmanpreet Kaur (C), Natalie Sciver, Lea Tahuthu/Arundhati Reddy, Taniya Bhatia, Anuja Patil, Poonam Yadav, Radha Yadav
Velocity:Mithali Raj has been quite vocal about giving the young players a chance in these three games and she’s rotated her resources to give everyone but Devika Vaidya a game. However, the fact that the leg-spin all-rounder was one of the handful of players to show up for optional nets on the eve of the game could be an indication that she’s finally been able to crack the code, potentially making Velocity field two leg-spinners.
Probable XI: Hayley Matthews, Shafali Verma, Danielle Wyatt, Mithali Raj (C), Veda Krishnamurthy, Shikha Pandey, Jahanara Alam/Devika Vaidya, Sushma Verma, Amelia Kerr, Komal Zanzad, Ekta Bisht
It’s been great because the Indian cricketers in all three teams have got opportunities to display their skills. [There’s been] close matches, interesting twists and turns in all league games. We have domestic players who have got an opportunity to play and for them also this experience has been brilliant. We’ve got to see some young talent, which even I haven’t seen in domestic cricket. And I have a couple of them in my own side. To see them play has been good – Velocity skipper Mithali Raj sums up the league stage.