Women’s Premier League: Mumbai turns UP’s eliminator

It was an evening where Mumbai Indians could not put a foot wrong. After a slight hiccup towards the end of the league phase where they ended up losing two matches on the trot and failed to make the final directly, on Friday, they rediscovered their title credentials. Playing UP Warriorz in the Eliminator at the DY Patil Stadium in blistering home support, Mumbai Indians won by 72 runs and set up a final with Delhi Capitals.

Ensuring Mumbai’s place in the final were two English cricketers, who have lit up the inaugural Women’s Premier League. If Nat Sciver-Brunt’s power-packed innings of 72 off just 38 deliveries, floored Warriorz in the first half of the match, then seamer Issy Wong’s four wickets – including a hat-trick – buried them in the second half. For UP, while the margin of defeat would definitely suggest they were outplayed, they would go back to the drawing room and wonder if the outcome could have been different had Sophie Ecclestone caught Sciver-Brunt in the final delivery of the sixth over when she was batting on six.

Even though Mumbai had put up 182/4 on board, the total was not beyond UP’s reach. A top five of Alyssa Healy, Shweta Sehrawat, Tahlia McGrath, Kiran Navgire, Grace Harris could do the job that Mumbai’s batting line-up did. And when Healy and Sehrawat raced to eight in the first over bowled by Sciver-Brunt, an exciting match seemed to be in the cards.

However, Saika Ishaque – one of the finds of the tournament – had other plans. Bowling with short boundaries to defend hasn’t been easy even for the best in the business. Ishaque, though, is riding high on confidence. The second over she delivered was as impactful as Sciver-Brunt’s knock. Fully aware that Sehrawat would target the leg-side boundary, she smartly mixed her line and length. After five successive dot balls and with pressure mounting, she tossed up the last ball, only for Sehrawat to hit it straight to the cover fielder.

Movement off the air

With Mumbai getting the early breakthrough, Harmanpreet Kaur handed the ball to Wong, who found movement off the air. After being smacked for a boundary first ball, she landed one at the middle-stump line and swung away. With Healy committed to the shot, the opener sliced it to mid-off, where Kaur pouched. Soon, 14/2 would become 21/3, this time thanks to Amanjot Kaur’s sensational fielding. Collecting the ball while she was moving towards her left, Kaur wasted no time to release it and the throw was even better as she fired it accurately and at the right height for Yastika Bhatia to dislodge the bails and catch McGrath short.

From there on, Navgire fought a lone-battle, scoring a characteristic 43 off 27 deliveries before Wong came back to weave her magic. Returning for her third over, she started with a perfect yorker which Navgire kept out. Off the next, the batter went after a full-toss, but could only hit as far as the fielder at deep mid-wicket.

That wicket effectively sealed the contest, but it only got better for Mumbai and Wong. The next delivery, Simran Shaikh played all around a full-length ball and saw the stumps lie flat. As she ran in for the hat-trick ball to Ecclestone, the noise was deafening. As expected she went for a yorker, but ended up with a full one – which was going away, only for Ecclestone to inside-edge it onto the stumps.

“Under lights, it swung,” Wong said. “The square allows you to keep the swing going even in the later stages of the innings. We knew if we look after the ball, then we can get it to swing. I was just trying to hit the stump,” Wong said.

Earlier, it was all Sciver-Brunt’s show. Even though Hayley Matthew, Amelia Kerr and Pooja Vastrakar played vital knocks, it was Sciver-Brunt who held Mumbai’s innings together. Coming into bat in the 5th over with momentum already with Mumbai, she wasted no time to drive home the advantage.

Lifting tempo

What stood out was not just her powerful shots or her ability to pick the gaps on the crowded leg-side, but the manner in which she raised the tempo. Having been asked to bat first, Mumbai needed the cushion of a few extra runs to have an upper-hand. Sciver-Brunt delivered exactly those.

Using the short boundaries and the gaps to good effect, she was calculative. Every time Warriorz presented a slight opportunity, she capitalised by lashing it for a boundary or a six. On an evening where she played some gorgeous shots, nothing stood out more than the short-arm jab that fetched her a boundary in the cow corner.

“It was very enjoyable bating out there, I surprised myself with a few shots actually. I have said thank you for dropping me. She would usually take those, luck of the draw fortunately. It swung nicely up here, really good fun. Yeah absolutely and really excited to make it to the final and hopefully enjoy yourselves,” Sciver-Brunt said.

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