Harmanpreet blitz powers Mumbai into playoffs

The Women’s Premier League is already past the half-way stage and with each match Mumbai Indians are enhancing their reputation as the team to beat. On Tuesday, they completed a double over Gujarat Giants, en route winning their fifth successive match and qualifying for the playoffs. And as has been the case so far in the tournament, Harmanpreet Kaur lost the toss once again, but right now Mumbai are playing their A-game and such is their confidence that conditions and attack don’t seem to matter.

This was a game where Gujarat showed signs of taking control of the game. But each time they threatened, Mumbai found a way to get on top. If Harmanpreet did that with the bat scoring a typically blazing 30-ball 51 when Gujarat’s attack was chipping away with wickets, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Hayley Mathew and Amelia Kerr did it with the ball. The only standout performance from Gujarat’s end came from Harleen Deol, who was outstanding on the field. Accounting for a direct-hit from long-on to run-out Humaira Kazi, she followed it up with a diving catch to end Harmanpreet’s power-packing innings.

With only one win from five matches, Gujarat need to get their act together quickly, else they risk missing out on a play-off berth. At the moment, they seem some distance away from knowing what their best combination is and nothing illustrated it more than their decision to play medium-pacer Mansi Joshi, who didn’t even get a chance to bowl and came in at No 11.

Harmanpreet has blown hot and cold in T20s in the past, but so far in the tournament she seems to be cracking the code. Maybe it has to do with a reliable opening combination at the top that lays strong foundation or the batting depth that few other teams can boast off, Harmanpreet has been able to deliver the sort of knocks that will more often than not end up being a match-winning innings. At the end of the 10th over with Yastika Bhatia and Nat Sciver-Brunt setting up for another big total at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai were placed at 64/1. In the next couple of overs where Mumbai would shift their gears, they lost both the settled batters.

While they are definitely not short on firepower in the middle overs, the departure of Kerr in the 17th over meant Harmanpreet had to deliver. On days where she looks in her elements, there is an air of invincibility about Harmanpreet. She can find gaps wherever she intends to, she can find a boundary ball whenever she desires. Similar to what she did on Tuesday, where she effortlessly hit a couple of sixes and toyed with the field. Mumbai lost seven wickets in the last 10 overs, but thanks to Harmanpreet, they ended up with 162/8.

Having a ball

With the pitches beginning to tire, and dew not an issue so far, the target was going to be a steep one for Gujarat. And from the moment Sciver-Brunt removed Sophia Dunkley off the first ball of the innings, Mumbai were well and truly on top. From there on, their spinners Matthews and Kerr took over, landing crucial blows every time Gujarat tried to get on the front foot. The tie was as good as over, when Ashleigh Gardner departed in the first ball of the ninth over to leave Gujarat reeling at 48/5. From there on, the only academic interest was on Mumbai’s margin of victory which eventually was 55.

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