Alice Capsey's all-round exploits puts Delhi Capitals directly in final
They pipped Mumbai Indians in the race to the top of the league table, chasing down 139 against UP Warriorz with plenty to spare
Delhi Capitals 142 for 5 (Lanning 39, Kapp 34*, Capsey 34) beat UP Warriorz 138 for 6 (McGrath 58*, Capsey 3-26) by five wickets
Alice Capsey couldn't believe it. She had her hands on her face in disbelief as she ran towards Meg Lanning at cover. She had managed to lure Sophie Ecclestone - who was in the middle in each of UP Warriorz's last two wins - out of her crease and then fired one down leg to get her stumped.
Spinners accounted for only 11 of the 39 wickets Delhi Capitals picked up in the Women's Premier League till Monday. Till then they had used legspinner Poonam Yadav, left-arm spinners Radha Yadav and Jess Jonassen and offspinners Minnu Mani and Capsey in the competition, with both of Mani and Poonam going wicketless in the three overs apiece they bowled.
On Tuesday, all six of Warriorz's wickets were taken by Capitals' spinners with Capsey having a lion's share of three. That effort - despite Tahlia McGrath's hard-hitting helping Warriorz amass 33 off the last two overs - meant Capitals restricted the target to a gettable 139 and then romped directly into the final of the inaugural WPL.
Last December, the near future looked bleak for Capsey after she broke her collarbone during England's tour to West Indies. She was touch-and-go for the Women's T20 World Cup and only just made the squad. After a couple of explosive knocks, including a half-century against Ireland, Capsey had a tough time in the tournament in South Africa. But the first two innings in that tournament combined with head coach Jonathan Batty's presence in the Capitals' coaching line-up meant she was picked up at the auction.
"Pretty disappointed to break my collarbone. However, I had that month off which the other girls didn't necessarily have to get it back to fitness and to develop my skills, which is prime opportunity going into a World Cup," Capsey said after her Player-of-the-match outing. "With our England side, we have got three world-class spinners. So I am not needed but [I have been] definitely learning off them, practicing in the nets, bowling at our batters which are world-class like Nat Sciver-Brunt. It's been pleasing to come into this competition and have that responsibility and get thrown the ball and it's come off."
And she has quite turned it around in the WPL.
Lanning has been happy to turn to Capsey's offspin for at least one over in the powerplay throughout the competition. But against Warriorz, she brought her on only in the tenth over. A part of the reason could be that Warriorz did away with left-hander Devika Vaidya, who has been opening the batting for them, and brought in Shweta Sehrawat to partner Alyssa Healy at the top.
When Capsey came on, Healy was all set and ready to change gears. She had contributed 32 of the 59 runs Warriorz scored at the end of nine overs. She then saw a fullish ball outside off and creamed it through covers for four. But Capsey then anticipated Healy giving her the charge and fired one full and outside off to beat her and have her stumped.
In a line-up that was without Grace Harris on the day, a set Healy's dismissal at the halfway mark was a big blow. Warriorz pushed Kiran Navgire back down the order perhaps for her to essay the role Harris played - of striking the big blows in the latter half. But Harris and Navgire are not quite the same. Which meant Healy had to bat longer for Warriorz to have a strong platform.
Job done, Lanning took Capsey off the attack and used Radha to snuff out Simran Shaikh and then Jonassen got the better of Navgire. McGrath was waging a lone battle when Deepti Sharma walked in at 91 for 4 in the 15th over.
A left-hander in the middle and on cue, Lanning brought Capsey back in the 16th over, which went for just two. An over later, Capsey first had Deepti stumped before tricking Ecclestone to have figures of 3-0-7-3. And so that giggle was perhaps justified. Capsey's final over went for 19 as McGrath hit her for two fours and a six but the damage was already done.
Capitals were then off to a flier in their run chase after Shafali Verma and Lanning added 56 for the opening wicket. But seamers S Yashasri and Shabnim Ismail struck thrice to reduce Capitals to 70 for 3. Enter our protagonist Capsey.
She took on England team-mate Ecclestone to hit her for three fours in an over before tonking a maximum over long-on off legspinner Parshavi Chopra. That allowed Marizanne Kapp to take time on a slowish surface at the Brabourne Stadium. Capsey scored 34 off 31 balls and was eventually stumped off Ecclestone leaving Capitals on the doorstep of a victory. After starting off aggressively, she toned down a bit and ensured Capitals faced few hiccups. Her 60-run stand with Kapp helped kill the chase after it was in the balance when she entered.
"The way I play, it's risk and reward. I am a very aggressive player and I like to put pressure on the bowlers," she said. "It's not necessarily about hitting all the fours and sixes but it's about getting myself in a position to get the team in the best position possible quickly. I have been used in a lot of different roles and change my mindset around when i go in. It's about making the percentage of the times it comes off higher, which I am learning.
"I am learning how to develop an innings. An experience like this has been crucial. Being around Meg Lanning and people like that has been brilliant."
All of 18 years old and on her maiden trip to India, Capsey is not just grabbing the opportunities that are coming her way but also making the headlines in the process.
S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo