In a tournament that lasts barely a few days and with a churn of foreign players each year, the weight attached to the position of defending champions cannot be taken too seriously. But when Harmanpreet Kaur leads out the Supernovas in the final of the Women’s T20 Challenge in Sharjah on Monday, that would not matter to her.
Kaur’s Supernovas will be eyeing a third straight title in the exhibition tournament when they face a determined Trailblazers in the final. Smriti Mandhana and Co have arguably looked like the best side overall in the tournament so far, but Supernovas certainly have the firepower to make it back-to-back wins in the 2020 edition and three straight titles overall.
Intangible it might be, but Supernovas will have momentum behind them, having beaten Mandhana’e team in the last round-robin game on Saturday. But only just.
Supernovas, champions in 2018 and 2019, managed to ward off their rivals in a last-over thriller. The two-run victory enabled the Supernovas to enter the final, while knocking the Mithali-Raj led Velocity out of the competition.
Indeed it would have been cruel, and a representation of how unplanned and haphazard this tournament comes across, had a team that was involved in two last-over thrillers not been part of the final instead of a team that was bowled out for 47. But thanks to a splendid last over from Radha Yadav, Supernovas deservedly booked their place in the final on Net Run Rate after all three teams finished with a win each.
For the defending champions, opener Chamari Atapattu (111 runs) has been in brilliant form. The Sri Lankan veteran is the top scorer of the event so far. After a steady 44 in the opener, she upped the ante in the must-win match. Against the Trailblazers, she played an aggressive innings (67 off 48-balls) to notch up the first fifty of the tournament.
Skipper Harmanpreet, who had scored two half-centuries last year, including one in the final, has been dismissed for 31 in both the matches and the big-hitting Indian T20 captain will look to get back to her destructive best in the final. She has showed signs of her ball-striking capability but, much like the case is with the Indian side, has been stifled a bit by the lack of batting after her.
They will be up against Trailblazers, who started their campaign on a sensational note. Their bowlers, led by England’s Sophie Ecclestone and veteran Jhulan Goswami, bundled out the Velocity for a paltry 47. However, they were unable to dish out a similar display on Saturday with the ball.
Skipper Mandhana, who has scored 39 runs in two games, has had an underwhelming tournament and will be keen to come good with the bat. Her knock against Supernovas was a scratchy one and understandably so perhaps given the nature of the pitch and how long they have been out of action. But with time in the middle under her belt, maybe she can flourish in the final.
Opener Deandra Dottin has also been among runs but will be keen to notch up a big one. The stars of the batting on Saturday were Deepti Sharma (43 not out) and Harleen Deol (27 off 15 balls), who almost led the Trailblazers to victory from a point where they needed 56 off 30 balls and the two will look to build on their performance.
The spinners are expected to play a huge role and both sides boast of quality tweakers.
While Trailblazers have the world No 1 T20 bowler in left arm spinner Ecclestone along with Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Supernovas are armed with the services of India’s star leg-spinner Poonam Yadav and Radha Yadav. The latter will also be brimming with confidence after bowling a stellar last over. But Poonam was held by Kaur because of the left-handers in the Trailblazers line-up, and the leggie bowled just one expensive over.
In the pace department, Trailblazers have the experienced Jhulan Goswami, who has the ability to turn the match on its head. For the the Supernovas, South African Ayabonga Khaka and West Indies’ Shakera Selman have done well.
If both sides play to their potential, we could be in for a third thriller in four matches of this tournament that, one hopes, is the last of its kind.
Match No 3: Supernovas vs Trailblazers
Match No 2: Trailblazers vs Velocity
Match No 1: Supernovas vs Velocity
Squads for Women's T20 Challenge
|Harmanpreet Kaur (C)||Smriti Mandhana (C)|
|Jemimah Rodrigues (VC)||Deepti Sharma (VC)|
|Chamari Atapattu||Punam Raut|
|Priya Punia||Richa Ghosh|
|Anuja Patil||D. Hemalatha|
|Radha Yadav||Nuzhat Parween (WK)|
|Taniya Bhatia (WK)||Rajeshwari Gayakwad|
|Shashikala Siriwardene||Harleen Deol|
|Poonam Yadav||Jhulan Goswami|
|Shakera Selman||Simaran Dil Bahadur|
|Arundhati Reddy||Salma Khatun|
|Pooja Vastrakar||Sophie Ecclestone|
|Ayushi Soni||Natthakan Chantham|
|Ayabonga Khaka||Deandra Dottin|
|Muskan Malik||Kashvee Gautam|
The match starts at 1930 IST and will be live on Star Sports network / Disney+ Hotstar
With PTI and iplt20.com inputs