Trailblazers 140 for 5 (Mandhana 90, Deol 36, Radha 2-28) beat Supernovas 138 for 6 (Harmanpreet 46*, Devine 32, Ecclestone 2-11, Gayakwad 2-17) by two runs
Two big stars of Indian women's cricket took centrestage in Jaipur as the multi-team Women's T20 Challenge kicked off with a final-ball thriller, much like how the one-off exhibition game had ended in Mumbai last year. Except this time, Trailblazers captain Smriti Mandhana's enterprising 90 trumped her opposite number Harmanpreet Kaur's unbeaten 46 as Supernovas fell short by an agonising two runs.
Chasing 19 off the last over, Harmanpreet nearly pulled off an encore of her performance on her Lancashire Thunder debut at last year's Kia Super League, when she struck a last-ball six in a chase, carting Jhulan Goswami for four fours off the first five balls, the last one landing only inches inside the rope. Needing three off the last ball, Harmanpreet slashed hard but couldn't connect with the length ball outside off, and the attempted bye ended with wicketkeeper R Kalpana catching non-striker Lea Tahuhu short of her ground at her end.
The near-perfect Harman-Devine show
When Harmanpreet walked in at No. 4 after eight overs, Supernovas' asking rate (7.16) was only a shade above their run rate 6.87. With Trailblazers shelling several chances, little suggested Mandhana's side won't have to pay for the drops. Keeping to her scratchy-at-first-sublime-thereafter template, Harmanpreet scored six off her first 10 balls. An unforgiving punch off Harleen Deol in the 12th over fetched Harmanpreet the first of her eight fours, the same number collected by the six other Supernovas batsmen.
During her 48-run stand with No. 6 Sophie Devine, Harmanpreet was off the strike for the major part as Devine herself, with her 22-ball 32, looked set to hand Trailblazers the finality. Having taken Supernovas to 122, Devine was trapped in front by Sophie Ecclestone. Devine used the review, the first of the tournament, but it wasn't overturned. The dismissal, eventually, proved a match-winning one as Ecclestone rounded out her 20th birthday with 2 for 11 that played a key role in victory for her side.
Below-par fielding a worry for Trailblazers
A misfield in the third over from Deepti Sharma handed Jemimah Rodrigues her first four. In the sixth, Deepti dropped the same batsman on 16, the ball popping out of her hands over her head at mid-on after she got both hands to it, and it was just the start of more telling shoddiness that was to follow.
Chamari Atapattu got two lives in the eighth over, bowled by Shakera Selman. Stafanie Taylor first put down a straightforward chance at deep square leg on the first ball before D Hemalatha ran in hard from sweeper cover two balls later, but couldn't hold on despite getting her hands under the ball.
The first drop had Mandhana clutch her knees, the second brought out a huge sigh (of disbelief) from Selman. But then came a moment of brilliance, courtesy Selman herself. Anticipating the striker Atapattu's call for a quick single on the leg side, Selman swooped in while carrying on from her follow-through, and put in a full-length forward-stretch to fire a direct hit at the wicketkeeper's end to catch Rodrigues well short of her ground, for a 19-ball 24.
The drop that nearly cost them the game came in the 17th over. Harmanpreet, on 25, launched Taylor down the ground, where Hemalatha went to her left from long-on and shelled her second catch of the night. Four drops, yet ending on the winning side? Trailblazers should be thanking their
Mandhana magic: sedate and scintillating
Mandhana lived up to her reputation with an uncharacteristic 67-ball 90, her second-highest T20 score.
If her maiden T20 ton, for Western Storm in KSL 2018, against Harmanpreet's Lancashire Thunder was all menace, the magic took time to unfold on Monday. It wasn't until the 35th ball of her innings that Mandhana's strike rate touched 100. That was largely down to Harmanpreet persisting with spin for the major part of that period, and Mandhana's early struggle was borne out in the seven runs she scored off her Maharashtra team-mate Anuja Patil, the offspinner. Her first two fours - in a combined tally of 10 fours and three sixes - came 23 balls apart.
As she loves pace on the ball, the four she broke her shackles with came off the first delivery bowled by Tahuhu. Thereafter, her willow oozed the class the 22-year-old is famed for. The highlight of her 119-run second-wicket stand with Deol (36 off 44) was the six - the first of the match - off wristpinner Poonam Yadav that floated over the extra cover boundary. Dragging her side to a respectable total has become second-nature to Mandhana in the recent past, thanks to India's middle-order woes. But on Monday, her knock also cushioned her side amid an otherwise deplorable fielding performance.