Supernovas 125 for 6 (Harmanpreet 51, Punia 29, Jahanara 2-21) beat Velocity 121 for 6 (Sushma 40, Kerr 36, Tahuhu 2-21) by four wickets
The Women's T20 Challenge aimed to pit India's best young talent against the world's best, and in the final on Saturday, Supernovas banked on 19-year old Radha Yadav to deliver the knockout blow. She did, hitting a brace of twos before coolly stepping out to scythe a full ball to the cover boundary to seal a win for the Supernovas. A strong crowd of 13,000 people applauded both teams as the tournament ended much like the way it began: a Harmanpreet Kaur special and a last-ball thriller.
All of it seemed unlikely when Velocity slumped to 37 for 5, playing one rash shot after another. Then, Amelia Kerr and Sushma Verma added 71 to lift them to 121 for 6. In reply, Supernovas slumped to 64 for 5. It needed a Harmanpreet special from there, and she delivered by shellacking a 34-ball half-century to take this right till the end MS Dhoni style.
The Tahuhu impact
Among the fastest bowlers in the women's game, Lea Tahuhu wasn't called into bowl a single over in the previous game as Supernovas banked on their spin riches. On a better batting deck, Harmanpreet turned to her trump card and she roared back in style, picking up two wickets in her first two overs.
She began with a wicket-maiden that brought her the scalp of Hayley Mathews with a peach that swung away late to nick her off. In her second over, she had Shafali Verma toe-end a drive to mid-off after the 15-year old had hit her for successive boundaries, the pull in front of square against pace showing signs of promise in the Haryana batter.
In between these two scalps, Anuja Patil proved why there is still place for her street-smart variations in the shortest format at least. By no means a turner of the ball, she relies on drift and zip off the pitch. She deceived Danny Wyatt in flight when she stepped out to loft inside out, only to be beaten by an away-drifter as Taniya Bhatia completed a smart stumping. The Powerplays produced 24 dot balls and with neither Mithali Raj nor Veda Krishnamurthy able to build an innings, Velocity hit a roadblock.
Kerr and Sushma provide the lift
Kerr possesses the highest score in women's ODIs - an unbeaten 232 against Ireland. Sushma, recently discarded as India's first-choice wicketkeeper, has a T20I best of 12 in 19 innings. With the Velocity innings headed south, they combined to add respectability to the innings by first playing risk-free cricket, and then seamlessly switching over to attack mode at the first sign of the bowlers switching off.
Kerr's use of the sweep, especially against the turn, and her feet to get to the pitch and drive was particularly impressive. Against Poonam Yadav, she displayed versatility by staying back inside the crease, at times getting inside the line and then playing her off the pitch because of her slowness in the air. Sushma proved the perfect ally, at no stage looking to match her partner stroke-for-stroke, yet opened up to treat fans to some gorgeous hits herself, the on-drive off Sciver in particular being a standout.
Once Kerr was out in the 19th over for a 38-ball 36, Sushma managed to pocket 12 more, including a six in the final over. She finished unbeaten on 40 off 32 balls and as she walked back, Velocity smelt hope.
Supernovas hit roadblock before Harmonster rises
Playing in front of her home crowd, Priya Punia provided a perfect start with a 31-ball 29, but her dismissal immediately in the aftermath of Jemimah Rodrigues' wicket left them precariously placed at 53 for 3. Then Jahanara, the Bangladesh allrounder, who may have not featured had the Australian superstars been made available, sent back Nat Sciver and Sophie Devine to open the floodgates. Enter the Harmonster, and things turned, slowly.
A week ago, Harmanpreet Kaur fell agonisingly short of victory despite taking Jhulan Goswami to the cleaners with Supernovas needing 19 off six balls. In the grand final, she didn't let the situation get there, but shepherded a chase that could have gone out of hand very quickly.
Harmanpreet was on 4 off 11 balls, with the side needing 58 off 35 when she hit her first boundary that came via a long hop she cut to bisect point and short third man. As it turned out, this was the trigger she needed. Two balls later, she slammed a half-tracker for six and then got on a roll, so much that Lea Tahuhu was a mere spectator at the other end.
Between Devine's dismissal and Harmanpreet's half-century that she raised off just 34 balls in the 19th over, Tahuhu's contribution was a solitary run off five deliveries. Then it all came down to seven off the final over, with Kerr tasked with the steep ask of defending with a short leg-side boundary to contend.
After Harmanpreet refused a single, she holed out to deep cover agonisingly, to briefly raise Velocity's hopes. But Radha coolly completed the job. After three twos that brought it down to one off one ball, Kerr tossed it up bravely, hoping against hope to deceive Radha in flight to take the game into a Super Over, but it wasn't to be. Radha scorched this through extra cover to seal the win.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo