Smriti Mandhana’s stroke-filled 90 set up the Trailblazers’ two-run win over the Supernovas in the opening match of the Women’s T20 Challenge. After being asked to bat first, the Trailblazers posted 140-5 riding on the back of Mandhana’s knock and her 119-run partnership with HarleenDeol. The Supernovas kept losing wickets at regular intervals, before their captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Sophie Devine resurrected the chase with a 48-run stand. Despite their efforts, the Supernovas finished short.
In the evening, the Trailblazers lost the experienced Suzie Bates in the second over of the match. Mandhana was joined by Deol, and the pair held sway until the nineteenth over. Though runs were hard to come by early on, both batters applied themselves and kept picking up singles at every opportunity. At the end of the eighth over, the Trailblazers were only 32-1; Mandhana was 13 from 23 balls, Deol was 13 from 21 balls, and both batters had hit just one boundary each.
It was at this stage that Mandhana switched gears; she not only pounced on poor deliveries, but also picked gaps in the field with intelligent strokes. The left-hander was exceptional with her footwork; she frequently charged down, gave herself momentum, got closer to the ball and played her strokes. She drove with élan – particularly through the extra cover region, but also packed a punch playing the pull. Mandhana missed out on a well-deserved hundred; she was 90 with five balls remaining in the innings, when she attempted to go over long-on, but picked out the fielder at the edge of the boundary. Mandhana’s 67-ball knock contained 10 fours and 3 sixes.
Deol was the perfect foil for Mandhana; she quietly executed the instructions her captain gave her, kept the scoreboard ticking with several singles, and picked up the occasional boundary. Deol would often drive the ball straight down the ground, to the left of mid-on and pick up singles; the midwicket region was where she collected her three boundaries. She made 36 from 44 balls before being dismissed in the nineteenth over.
The Supernovas used six bowlers to bowl their twenty overs; Anuja Patil, who bowled three of her four overs in the powerplay, returned excellent figures of 4-1-12-1, while Radha Yadav (2-28) and Sophie Devine (1-27) too got amongst the wickets.
Later in the match, opener Chamari Athapaththu (26 from 34 balls) and Jemimah Rodrigues (24 from 19 balls) laid the platform for the Supernovas’ chase; but when Athapaththu was dismissed in the eleventh over, and Natalie Sciver was dismissed in the thirteenth over, the match was back in the balance. Harmanpreet and Devine took the fight to the opposition, collecting 45 runs off the next five overs to take their team to the brink. But Devine’s dismissal – LBW Sophie Ecclestone – once again put the match in the balance. Despite Harmanpreet’s last over heroics – she hit Jhulan Goswami for four boundaries in the first five balls – the Supernovas still finished one hit short.
It was a case of so near yet so far; the penultimate ball, driven by Harmanpreetto the cover boundary, was declared a boundary four by the TV Umpire after replays indicated the ball had bounced centimetres from the boundary padding. Had that been a six, the Supernovas would have needed a single off the final ball, and for all one knows Harmanpreet would have approached that delivery differently.
The Trailblazers were very sloppy in the field and nearly paid for the numerous catches they dropped. However, credit to their bowlers, who kept creating those opportunities. Sophie Ecclestone and Rajeshwari Gayakwad picked up two wickets each and were the Trailbazers’ best bowlers by a distance. Ecclestone’s fourth over – the 19th of the innings – deserves a special mention; with the match slipping away from her team, she conceded just one run and picked up the big wicket of Devine to tilt the scales ever so slightly in favour of her team.
Trailblazers: 140-5 (Smriti Mandhana 90, HarleenDeol 36, Radha Yadav 2-28) defeated
Supernovas: 138-6 (Harmanpreet Kaur 46*, Sophie Devine 32, Sophie Ecclestone 2-11, Rajeshwari Gayakwad 2-17) by 2 runs.
Player of the Match
Smriti Mandhana, for her 67-ball 90.