WPL: Hayley Matthews blazes a magnificent trail for Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore

Hayley Matthews has been the lone shining star in the West Indies side for a while now. A very reliable off-spinner, athletic on the field and most importantly destructive with the bat at the top, Hayley has got everything in her armoury. There is a reason why like many of her male counterparts, she is most sought after in T20 leagues around the world. On Monday, the 24-year-old lit up the Women’s Premier League as her all-round effort (3 wickets & unbeaten 77 off 38) helped Mumbai Indians make light work of Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Brabourne Stadium.

Hayley is just 24, but ever since she burst into the scene as a childhood prodigy, she has been destined for bigger things and nothing illustrated it more than the 45-ball 66 she scored against Australia in the final of the 2016 T20 World Cup – the only time the latter has lost in the title decider.

Growing up in Barbados, Hayley was part of her school boys team, whom she went on to captain in local tournaments. At 13, she captained the Under-13 boys team and in Barbados First Division cricket has batted alongside West Indies men’s team opener Shai Hope.

Although she has blown hot and cold at the senior level, Hayley seems to be coming of age, and her innings with the bat on Monday was further evidence of it. This was a game where Hayley was in command from the word go to the last ball as Mumbai Indians chased down their target of 156 with nine wickets in hand and 34 balls left.

It was a dominant performance, the sorts that makes Mumbai Indians, an early contender to lift the title. Be it with their tactics – to start with spin against Smriti Mandhana for example or with their fielding or intent with the bat, Mumbai were everything that Royal Challengers Bangalore weren’t. It was a strange game for Bangalore, who after winning the toss and in conditions where dew would play a role later on, chose to bat first against a side that has plenty of batting depth.

With runs on board being the key, Bangalore’s approach was bold from the start. However, what proved to be their bigger undoing with the bat was their failure to change the tempo. Whenever they lost a wicket, they showed a bold approach to counter-attack. While it worked at times, it cost them a lot, leading to the wickets of Mandhana, Disha Kasat, Heather Knight who all fell in space of seven deliveries after the dismissal of Sophie Devine.

RCB recover

At 43/4 it looked difficult for Bangalore to put even a reasonable total. However, Elysse Perry, Richa Ghosh, Kanika Ahuja, Shreyanka Patil, Megan Schutt all swung the long handle to good effect as they managed to lift the team to 155. That Bangalore lasted only 18.4 overs showed how they were rigid in their approach.

Chasing 156, Mumbai didn’t have the need to show their batting might, but Hayley definitely showed what she is capable off. Liberated by a strong middle-order presence, Hayley was at her free-flowing best on a pitch that suits her game. Unlike the pitches she finds back home – which are slow and low – the batting friendly tracks suit her style of game and what stood out was how early she picked the length and how well she dictated the pace of the game. Once she got a hang of the pitch and the attack, Hayley was simply unstoppable as she used the short boundaries to good effect and picked 13 fours and one six.

“It was a pretty good pitch to bat on. Before the game began we thought 170-180-plus would be par. After the first innings we knew we were in for a big finish. We had good batting depth and myself and Nat (Sciver-Brunt) were able to do that and secure a very good win,” Hayley said.

If Hayley was playing a whirlwind knock, Sciver-Brunt was in her usual element as well, as her unbeaten 29-ball 55 was put in the shadow only by a special knock for Hayley.

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