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Match Analysis

Nat Sciver-Brunt lives up to her billing on night of eerie familiarity

Wearing blue and facing a side in yellow led by an Australia legend, the England allrounder was in her element

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
Nat Sciver-Brunt is now Mumbai Indians' top run-getter in the WPL, with 272 at a strike rate of 149.45  •  BCCI

Nat Sciver-Brunt is now Mumbai Indians' top run-getter in the WPL, with 272 at a strike rate of 149.45  •  BCCI

Nat Sciver-Brunt has done it plenty of times before. Donning the blues, against a side in yellow, in a crunch game, with the bat especially. And against several other teams too.
Just last year, she started the ODI World Cup with an unbeaten 109 off 85 against arch-rivals Australia that took England from 177 for 5 to the brink of their target of 311. A month later, England were chasing a massive 357 in the final - yep, against Australia again - and Sciver-Brunt stood tall amid the wreckage with an unbeaten 148. No other England batter got to 30.
When she returned from a three-month mental-health break later in the year, she was Player of the Series in the ODIs against West Indies, the second-highest scorer in the T20 World Cup last month with 216 runs at a strike rate of 141.17, and struck two scintillating knocks - a rescue act after England were 29 for 3 against India that ultimately set up an 11-run win, and a 29-ball fifty in a record-breaking win over Pakistan.
The WPL eliminator on Friday evening at the DY Patil Stadium was a knockout game for two teams but it seemed like just another evening for Sciver-Brunt. She was wearing blue against a UP Warriorz side in yellow led by Australia's Alyssa Healy, and she hammered an unbeaten 72 off 38 balls - she reached her fifty off 26 balls - that gave Mumbai Indians a total of 182 that they wouldn't have reached without her.
Sciver-Brunt also owes one to her England team-mate Sophie Ecclestone, who put her down at mid-off when she was on 6, off the last ball of the powerplay. Sciver-Brunt thanked Ecclestone after the game, but she first made Warriorz pay for the missed chance.
Sciver-Brunt's batting style doesn't get the kind of attention that those of Healy or Shafali Verma do because she doesn't hit as many sixes or go aerial as often, but her near-effortless ability to pick gaps and find the boundary regularly deflates oppositions in a very similar manner.
The field spread after Sciver-Brunt was dropped, but short third and short fine leg were in the circle, and she scooped Ecclestone fine on the leg side for four in the seventh over. Top-order wickets often bring the pace down - even in T20s - but not in Sciver-Brunt's world. Her confidence and self-belief were such that she hit the pedal harder after Hayley Matthews holed out in the 10th over. Sciver-Brunt unleashed her A game when she saw Warriorz's most inexperienced bowler, the teenager Parshavi Chopra, come on in the 12th over.
She grabbed the initiative off the first ball of the over, pulling a marginally short ball between long-on and deep midwicket for her fourth four. Chopra was going to go fuller now, and probably toss it up too because that's her strength, and predicting that, Sciver-Brunt danced down to the next ball and lofted the converted half-volley over long-off for six. That forced Chopra to go a little short again, and Sciver-Brunt quickly rocked deep in her crease and swatted the ball past short fine leg for four more. The 16-year-old Chopra's 16-run over lifted Mumbai's run rate from 7.45 to 8.16.
Once she crossed 50 and Mumbai entered the death overs, Sciver-Brunt took on the experienced left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad. With nifty footwork again, she skipped down for an elegant inside-out drive over the covers and followed up with a short-arm pull off the next ball, inevitably flatter and shorter.
Sciver-Brunt later said she had "surprised myself with a couple of shots". Healy, who has seen her collect runs in this fashion plenty of times from behind the stumps, was a spectator again.
"She's a class player and I think she's the No. 1 allrounder in the world at the moment," Healy said at her post-match press conference. "There's no secret to why that is, she plays good cricket shots and she bowls and fields really well as well. Yeah, I've been at the other end of a couple of her knocks which has been great to watch.
"She's a classy-looking batter, she doesn't ever try anything too outlandish, she just plays nice and straight, plays along the ground most of the time and gets the job done for her team, which is probably the most amazing aspect of her cricket, that she stands up for her team in those big moments."
Sciver-Brunt topped her innings off with a fairytale last-ball six off Deepti Sharma. Her innings put her on top of Mumbai's run charts for the season, and she also has the best strike rate in the side (149.45) as well as 10 wickets - she's more than lived up to her billing as the joint-second-most-expensive buy at the auction. And if this yellow-blue rivalry is going to become a thing in the future - like Australia vs England or Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians in the IPL - the WPL will always remember who wrote its first chapter.

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo