For the first knockout match of Women’s Premier League in Navi Mumbai on Friday, Mumbai Indians’ Harmanpreet Kaur and UP Warriorz’s Alyssa Healy will walk out for the toss, perhaps sharing a joke or two. Maybe something about Harmanpreet’s luck (or lack of) in the toss of a coin. Or the same four-letter word in relation to the T20 World Cup semifinal, when Harmanpreet and Healy were the protagonists in the most decisive moment. Or the same four-letter word in the context of these two sides meeting earlier in the tournament when fortune favoured the Indian with the bail not falling out. Luck.

Whatever it is, the two captains will have a broad smile on their faces. Beyond any luck factor, both these teams have earned their spots in this Eliminator, one win away from reaching the first final of the WPL. Their teams have played some fine cricket. They have entertained the crowds in Mumbai over their 8 matches, Mumbai Indians delighting as the home team and UP Warriorz providing some grand entertainment in thrilling finishes.

With one win each when the two sides met each other during the league phase, the two teams enter the Eliminator with match-winners on either side.

When they met first time, Harmanpreet played a blinder of an innings in the run-chase aided by a little bit of luck. It was MI’s fourth win in four matches and they turned a pressure situation into a comfortable win in the end.

The second meeting saw UPW’s brilliant bowling attack step up to restrict MI’s batting unit before crossing the line in a nervy chase. It was that win that all but sealed UPW’s place in the top three, without any last-minute hassles.

First match:

TOSS: Alyssa Healy opted to bat first

First innings: UPW 159/6 after 20 overs

Second innings: MI 164/2 after 17.3 overs

Second match:

Toss: Alyssa Healy elected to field first.

First innings: MI 127 all out (20)

Second innings: UPW 129/5 (19.3)

Harmanpreet’s MI rode on their all-round strength but deep inside, they will know they missed a golden chance to be in the final after starting the tournament the way they did with five straight wins. The batting lineup has recently started struggling, with runs drying up for the top order on pitches that have offered more and more to bowlers as the tournament has gone on. On the flip side, they will now know there are some runs in the lower middle order, should they need it in the knockouts. That confidence can perhaps help the top order reset and get back to shouldering the run-scoring workload. Hayley Matthews, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Harmanpreet will hold the key if MI are to find their batting groove again.

MI’s bowling unit, before the tournament, appeared to be light on spin depth. While Saika Ishaque’s early form helped their cause, she has gone off the boil in the last three matches and MI will be hoping for her to return to her wicket-taking ways. Because it is clearly the area where UPW have the edge in this contest. The spinners that Healy has at her disposal could be the game-changers. Sophie Ecclestone’s four overs are gold dust in this format. While Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad have blown hot and cold, they are well capable foils to the English star. The find for them, however, has been the young leggie Parshavi Chopra, who has earned Healy’s trust in the last few matches.

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UPW’s batting has been overly dependent on their three Australian stars. Healy, Tahlia McGrath and Grace Harris have been carrying all the pressure of scoring runs while the local talent has struggled to chip in. In stark contrast, MI have gotten this far without any Australian hand in their run. Heather Graham is the only Aussie in their squad and she hasn’t been required to feature.

The contest is likely to be decided by Mumbai’s batting might and UP’s bowling prowess, especially if the pitch at DY Patil Stadium aids turn or is two-paced. Meg Lanning’s Delhi Capitals will be watching on, knowing both sides will be able competitors in the final.

Predicted XIs:

UP Warriorz XI: Devika Vaidya, Alyssa Healy (wk & c), Kiran Navgire, Tahlia McGrath, Grace Harris,  Deepti Sharma, Simran Shaikh, Sophie Ecclestone, Anjali Sarvani, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Parshavi Chopra

Mumbai Indians XI: Yastika Bhatia (wk), Hayley Matthews, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Amelia Kerr, Pooja Vastrakar, Amanjot Kaur, Humaira Kazi, Issy Wong, Jintimani Kalita, Saika Ishaque