Confident UP Warriorz, well-rounded Delhi Capitals meet in playoff rehearsal
Depending on Mumbai Indians' result in their last game, a win for Capitals can push them straight into the final
UP Warriorz have Sophie Ecclestone to thank for bailing them out of troubled waters for two games in a row now. Wins that seemed tough - first in a low-scorer against Mumbai Indians, and then in a tall chase against Gujarat Giants - have catapulted them into the top three.
Even if third-placed Warriorz lose against Delhi Capitals on Wednesday, they are certain to play the Eliminator, thus giving them a shot at the final; but if they beat Capitals, it will force a three-way race for the top spot if Mumbai happen to lose their final match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. However, Warriorz are so far behind both Mumbai and Capitals on net run rate that it is near impossible to catch up in just one game.
That said, they would have probably settled for third if you had asked them last week, which saw them suffer their third loss in four games despite starting the season with a win.
Over to their opponents. Capitals have come storming back to steal the top spot that seemed destined to be Mumbai's when they had raced to five straight wins. But two losses in a row for Mumbai have opened the door ajar. In sending Mumbai on a tailspin by chasing down 110 in just nine overs last night, Capitals are in a position where a win in their final group game could vault them straight into the final provided Mumbai either lose their final match, or win it but don't cross Capitals on net run rate.
But Capitals could finish atop with a loss too, though they wouldn't want to enter the playoffs devoid of momentum. Capitals further stand to gain if Royal Challengers bring their A game to beat Mumbai.
Warriorz would dearly love for their Indian batters to turn up and strike form. Devika Vaidya, Kiran Navgire and Deepti Sharma have all struggled lately, but their lack of runs have been compensated by contributions from Grace Harris and Tahlia McGrath.
Capitals, though, have no such worries. Meg Lanning is the highest run-getter of the tournament so far, while Shafali Verma's destructive game that seemed to have deserted her during the T20 World Cup has given them the turbocharge up top; her strike rate of 189 is clearly the best for any batter with at least 200 runs in the tournament. To add to that, Marizanne Kapp has been scoring runs and picking wickets for fun, Alice Capsey has lent batting muscle in the powerplay, and Jemimah Rodrigues has provided a calming influence in the middle order.
Then there has been the ever-reliable Jess Jonassen who has been around to play a role similar to what Michael Bevan did for Australia all those years ago - bail the team out of trouble time and again. This is a well-rounded batting unit high on confidence.
Players to Watch
With scores of 12, 8 and 1 in her last three innings, Warriorz captain Alyssa Healy has hit a rough patch. But she has the reputation of being a big-match player. As the Eliminator nears, there couldn't have been a better chance than this to roar back into form and carry the confidence of doing so against a gun bowling attack.
Don't let the raw numbers fool you. She may have just two wickets in five games, but Arundhati Reddy had a rhythm to her bowling that Lanning applauded unprompted after the win against Mumbai. Reddy also appears to have cranked up her pace, and seemed menacing with her nip-backers during her spell of 1 for 10 in three overs in that match.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Meg Lanning (capt), 2 Shafali Verma, 3 Alice Capsey, 4 Jemimah Rodrigues, 5 Marizanne Kapp, 6 Jess Jonassen, 7 Taniya Bhatia (wk), 8 Shikha Pandey, 9 Arundhati Reddy, 10 Radha Yadav, 11 Tara Norris
UP Warriorz: 1 Alyssa Healy (capt, wk), 2 Devika Vaidya, 3 Tahlia McGrath, 4 Kiran Navgire, 5 Grace Harris, 6 Deepti Sharma, 7 Sophie Ecclestone, 8 Simran Shaikh, 9 Anjali Sarvani, 10 Parshavi Chopra, 11 Rajeshwari Gayakwad
Stats and Trivia
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo