Harmanpreet Kaur came to the IPL party, striking four fours in the final over – one of them inches away from being a six – but in a repeat of last year’s one-off game, found herself nursing the wounds of a last-ball defeat again to Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers.
The thrilling two-run win in Jaipur on Monday, 6 May, set up by Mandhana’s 67-ball 90 earlier, kicked off the second edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge, on the sidelines of the IPL. The pitch didn’t make for a high-scoring clash, and the rust was evident in the field as a motley crew of players were thrown together for the short term, but it was an entertaining evening of cricket nonetheless on a day when the men took a break.
— Kate Cross (@katecross16) May 6, 2019
Sophie Ecclestone. The day started out for the young left-arm spinner with her England team-mate Nat Sciver forgetting to wish her on her 20th birthday, but she brought her own party to Jaipur. She was excellent in conceding just 11 runs off her four overs against arguably the strongest batting side in the tournament, accounting for the wickets of opener Priya Punia and the dangerous Sophie Devine.
Ecclestone came on to bowl the penultimate over, with the Supernovas needing 21 from 12 balls and a well-set Kaur and Devine at the crease. Remarkably, she went for just two runs, nearly held on to a return catch off Kaur and had Devine trapped in front.
Someone must have made good use of their birthday wishes.
Smriti Mandhana's 90 guides the Trailblazers to a total of 140/4 after 20 overs. pic.twitter.com/XJEZv4AYoc
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) May 6, 2019
Just four games. Yes, four is better than last year’s one, which is better than the previous year’s zero dingo’s kidneys given. Yet, it remains the ‘Women’s T20 Challenge’, and not the women’s IPL that was in no uncertain terms declared the “missing piece of the puzzle” in women’s cricket last year.
There’s more to applaud than moan about this year’s not-IPL: the T20s are official, it’s been expanded to bring in players from West Indies, Sri Lanka and, most excitingly, Bangladesh. One of the teams has a female Indian coach. There is an additional team. There’s TV coverage, there’s DRS, there have been promotional efforts. It’s been given a standalone spot, so for the most part the women won’t have to play in searing afternoon heat. And, praise be, the jerseys are not kawaii candyfloss.
Yet, it remains WIPL-lite, an ‘exhibition’. On Monday, Mandhana’s classy 90 and Kaur’s last-over heroics were a reminder of what can be. Now can we have some more please?
What they said
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) May 7, 2019
“I was nervous – a world-class batter, professional batter at the other end.”
– Jhulan Goswami, the highest ODI wicket-taker, gets the Kaur treatment in the final over
What they didn’t say
“Happy birthday, Sophie.”
– Sciver needs to go shopping for a good birthday gift.
It’s back to the men on Tuesday, and Dhoni v Rohit in the first of the play-off games. Mandhana’s Trailblazers will be back on May 8, taking on the new Velocity side, led by Mithali Raj.