Sophie Ecclestone shines as UP Warriorz show that Mumbai Indians can be beaten
UP Warriorz bowled Mumbai Indians out for only 127, but managed to chase down the target only in the final over
UP Warriorz 129 for 5 (Harris 39, McGrath 38) beat Mumbai Indians 127 (Matthews 35, Ecclestone 3-15) by five wickets
On a hot Saturday afternoon at the DY Patil Stadium, draped in blue and nearly three-quarters full, Mumbai Indians finally suffered their first defeat in the Women's Premier League after five consecutive wins. They are already in the playoffs and are favourites to finish first in the league and go straight through to the final, but the other contenders now know that Harmanpreet Kaur's team can be beaten.
The two crucial points in the race for the playoffs did not come easy for UP Warriorz, even though laft-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone's outstanding spell of 3 for 15 helped dismiss Mumbai for only 127 on a slow pitch that offered turn, their lowest score batting first. They needed Ecclestone's batting skills too, as she launched Issy Wong over the straight boundary to seal a tough chase with three balls to spare.
Ecclestone out-spins IshaqueAt one point during Ecclestone's spell, the broadcasters showed a split screen comparing her load-up and action with Mumbai's left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque. While Ecclestone is considerably taller than Ishaque, on the day it was her bowling speed that made the difference.
The pitch, baked under the hot sun, was aiding slow, spin bowling. Ecclestone, all of 23 years old, is a veteran at extracting assistance when conditions even remotely aid spin. Her first wicket was England team-mate Nat Sciver-Brunt, who went back to a straight ball and played across the line and was trapped lbw.
Hayley Matthews is used to playing on slow surfaces at home in the West Indies and looked at ease on this pitch. She scored 35 off 29 balls before Ecclestone got one to grip, and Matthews top-edged her heave across the line and was caught behind by Alyssa Healy. She picked up her third wicket with a delivery that dipped under Amanjot Kaur's bat to have her stumped. Ecclestone conceded only one boundary in four overs, when Kiran Navgire dropped Wong running in from long-off.
Mumbai's Ishaque, who Ecclestone drew level with at the top of the WPL wicket charts with 12 scalps, had an unsuccessful game in contrast. She finished wicketless for a second match in a row, and her lack of success against UP was because she darted the ball in rather quickly. Two of her faster deliveries - at 89 kph and 90 kph - were hit four boundaries by Tahlia McGrath during a crucial phase of the chase.
Mumbai's batting depth finally gets testedOnly once had Mumbai lost more than five wickets in their first five games. Their top and middle-order batters - Matthews, Harmanpreet and Amelia Kerr - had contributed so regularly that their strength after No. 6 had rarely been put to the test.
In their previous game against Gujarat Giants, Mumbai were nearly in trouble when Wong was out for a first-ball duck, but Harmanpreet ensured they crossed 150. Harmanpreet was key against UP too, as Mumbai lost Yastika Bhatia, Sciver-Brunt and Kerr cheaply. After a steady start, she looked to accelerate against spin, clearing her front foot to slog legspinner Parshavi Chopra through midwicket and dabbing and slicing for boundaries behind point off Chopra and Rajeshwari Gayakwad. But her aggressive approach did not succeed against Deepti Sharma's offspin and Mumbai's lower order was exposed in the 14th over.
They lost their last five wickets in 40 balls for just 49 runs, and most of those runs were scored by Wong, who smashed 32 off just 19 deliveries. Amanjot Kaur, Dhara Gujjar and Humaira Kazi bat in the top and middle order for their state teams while allrounder Jintimani Kalita is only 19 years old. The inexperience and lack of power down the order hurt Mumbai.
McGrath and Harris counter-attackWarriorz slipped to 27 for 3 in 6.1 overs, and Mumbai suddenly looked good to defend their score of 127. Faced with doing a repair job without letting the asking rate rise too much, two Australians McGrath and Grace Harris joined forces with the match in the balance. They were the only Warriorz batters to score at more than a run a ball, and their 44-run stand in 5.4 overs brought their team back into the chase.
McGrath was dropped first ball when the wicketkeeper Bhatia failed to hold on to a regulation catch off Wong, thereafter both batters feasted on the pace of Sciver-Brunt, Wong and Amanjot. Spin was clearly the order of the day - Warriorz used only two overs of seam - and Mumbai's tactics of backing their seamers backfire, with Wong going at more than nine an over while Amanjot's only over cost 11.
McGrath and Harris were eventually both dismissed by Kerr's legspin, and Warriorz needed Deepti and Ecclestone to steer them to victory in the final over.
S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo