Jhulan Goswami has long since quit the shortest format of the game. Sophie Ecclestone is currently the world No 1 bowler in the ICC T20I rankings. The Indian is a few weeks short of turning 38 while the England player is just 21 years old. The pacer has not played a Twenty20 match since the Women’s T20 Challenge last year while the spinner is coming off a good English summer with international and domestic games.
Opposites in so many ways, the one thing that binds these diverse bowlers is that they both are stalwarts of their craft. A seam-bowling spearhead and a spin-bowling strike bowler.
Incidentally, both have the same number of T20I wickets – 56 – even though Ecclestone has played close to half the games Goswami has. That’s how impactful the left-arm spinner has been in her short career so far.
Normally, there would not be an opportunity for the path of the enduring great and the upcoming star to intersect in the shortest format. But for the Women’s T20 Challenge, the exhibition women’s tournament, played alongside the Indian Premier League.
On Thursday, they shared the new ball for Trailblazers and put together one of the most lethal Powerplay bowling performances you are likely to see. Bowling in tandem in their first game of the 2020 edition, the duo triggered a dramatic top-order collapse in a dominant nine-wicket win that all but sealed a final spot for their side.
They claimed five wickets in six overs between them as Velocity went from 17/0 to 21/5 after a sensational spell of bowling. The Mithali Raj-led team were eventually bowled out for 47 and neither of the new ball bowlers completed their spell but returned stunning bowling figures.
Sophie Ecclestone – 3.1-1-9-4
Jhulan Goswami – 3-0-13-2
The Indian got the better of big-hitting openers Danni Wyatt and Shafali Verma while the Englishwoman sent back Indian veterans Mithali Raj, Veda Krishnamurty and last match’s hero Sushma Verma… all in the first six overs.
Ecclestone got her best figures in a T20 game (although these are not counted as official T20s) proving just why she is world No 1 while Goswami’s twin-wicket early blast proved that she is still at the top of the game, no matter her age or the time off.
A complete blowing performance
Of the three squads in the four-match Women’s T20 Challenge, Trailblazers possibly have the most unique bowling lineup.
Other than the new-ball pair, they had pace bowling all-rounder Deandra Dottin, who recently returned to bowling after a long layoff due to shoulder injury and one half of the Indian spin quartet – Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad. On Thursday, the four combined to skittle Velocity for just 47 in 15.1 overs, with a disciplined line and length display that belied the fact that the Indians were taking the field after half a year.
Granted, Velocity were playing just half a day after winning their last match on Wednesday. That lack of rest coupled with long hiatus and quarantine before means there had to be glitches. But this batting collapse was less lack of practice and more bowling might from the Trailblazers.
Indeed, Velocity began in a strong manner with Shafali Verma applying her trademark attack at the top of the order. The 16-year-old smacked Goswami for boundary and then danced down the track to deposit the economical Ecclestone for a six. (A six in her spell of just nine runs, imagine that.)
But it was the veteran who had the last laugh over the rising star as Goswani foxed her with a length ball that snuck through to the stumps. Shafali was furious with herself for being late to it, not knowing that her 9-ball 13 would be her team’s highest score and her wicket would start a procession.
Ecclestone got Mithali Raj and Veda Krishnamurthy off successive balls as she kept a tight line at the stumps and varied her speed. Given three straight overs by captain Smriti Mandhana, Goswami then got Wyatt when she tried to get a move on and Ecclestone knocked back Sushma’s stumps.
After that, Gayakwad (2/13) and Sharma (1/8) picked up from where they left off and Mandhana contributed with a run-out.
Fittingly, it was Ecclestone who took the last Velocity wicket too to make it a four-wicket haul.
The England spinner is the top-ranked bowler but chose to skip the ongoing Women’s Big Bash League – the foremost T20 competition for women – due to the fatigue of being in a bio-bubble. This was a big gain for the Women’s T20 Challenge and she is perhaps the biggest international name in the depleted squads.
Her phenomenal spell took Trailblazers to the final of the short tournament and everyone will hope to see more of it in their next game against Supernovas.
If Trailblazers’ diametrically opposite new-ball pair continues in the same vein at a ground generally seen as a batter’s paradise but turning into an enjoyable hunting ground for bowlers, there will be very little stopping them from winning the whole thing.
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