It is not every night that Ashleigh Gardner goes for 22 runs in an over. But it is not every night that the world’s No. 1 all-rounder comes across someone who hits the ball as cleanly as Shafali Verma was on Saturday.
There is still plenty of cricket to be played in the inaugural Women’s Premier League, but Shafali’s innings (76 not out, 28b, 10×4, 5×6) for Delhi Capitals against Gujarat Giants at Navi Mumbai’s D.Y. Patil Stadium will remain one of the highlights of the tournament. It was T20 batting at its best.
Ever since the world first saw her at the Women’s T20 Challenge — the precursor to the WPL — as a 15-year-old on a summer evening in Jaipur four years ago, she has often shown she is a special talent. Even by her high standards, this knock was special.
Delhi Capitals captain and Shafali’s opening partner Meg Lanning had the best seat in the house. “I loved standing at the other end and watching her doing her thing,” Lanning said. “It was a lot of fun out there. (We were chasing a small total and) we wanted to play our natural games. But I didn’t see that coming from Shafali. I don’t think anyone did. I just asked her to keep going.”
Shafali acknowledged she benefitted from batting alongside one of the finest batters of all time in the women’s game. “I would like to thank her for her advice,” she said. “In the last game, I got out playing the flick. So I tried to play straight.”
Shafali and Lanning have now established themselves as the best opening pair of the tournament, with stands of 162, 67, 8 and 107 (unbroken). Shafali will have gained a lot from their partnership by the time the tournament is over. That is one of the ways the WPL is going to help Indian women’s cricket.