Tall players don’t always find it easy to collect catches that seemingly look straightforward. And tall scorecards do not necessarily dominate IPL contests. Wonder how many seats might have the Wankhede weekday thriller sold had the tickets carried a disclaimer: final over thriller promised?
Even as one giant of the game- whether in record books or inbuilt- Jhulan Goswami couldn’t get down in time to collect a decisive catch on the final delivery, another giant of the game, Suzie Bates (Goswami’s teammate on this occasion), brought her top grade all-round game to push the Supernovas to the edge as they remain unaffected to clinch a final-ball thriller at the Wankhede.
In many ways, the first of its kind Women’s IPL set the tone for a hopefully befitting men’s playoff that’s slated to take place later in the evening. What was the tipping point of the contest- low scores- was, in fact, the central tenet of a game that often turned on its head.
Not a contest you’d remember for blazing big hits. Not a contest you’d remember for switch-hitting and cross-batted swats breaking seats in the pavilion either.
From the outset, the one-off Supernovas versus Trailblazers contest clinched but only just by Kaur’s victorious women might have indicated a yawn-inducing prospect for the early evening when the highest score read 32, coming from Suzie Bates’ bat, enabling the team to construct 129 hard-fought runs.
But implicit in the contest were more trickles and turns that resembled a Formula 1 circuit. Making a true contest of a meagre 130 run ask, Smriti Mandhana’s valiant side nearly undid Harmanpreet’s Supernovas as wickets regularly felt from the onset of the 15th to the 19th over of a run chase that resembled the signature essence of Michael Jackson’s most-selling album, Thriller.
What the Trailblazers and Supernovas 20-over tug of war proved was that the IPL often showcases its true flair veiled in the low scoring contests. And little do those disappoint.
Entertaining in equal measure and thrilling in every way, the first ever IPL contest was a livewire that went down the final ball of the contest seeing the Supernovas edging past the Trailblazers in the very final breath of a breathtaking contest.
There was a moment in the game when in the final over of the innings, Perry, having already conceded a dot, facing Bates scampered to the non-striker’s end for a single seeing Pooja Vastrakar on the strike. The third ball, a dot may have given Supernovas a skip in the heartbeat. As 3 were needed from 3, Vastrakar somehow put the bat to the ball and Perry the strike.
Surprisingly the Aussie superstar couldn’t find the big strokes and fend off a single to give Vastrakar the strike again. This is where the game very nearly could’ve changed. 1 needed off 1, fielders up in the circle, the chance of a classic thriller going down the wire pillaged by Supernovas stealing a single as Vastrakar played Bates’ final-ball yorker toward short mid wicket where Goswami couldn’t get down in time to collect a possible catch.
The hurrahs were all over. A slight disappointment on Mandhana’s face even as a faint possible grin signalled that it was an incredibly well-played contest by the two.
You feel for Suzie Bates. However, you relished in her effort. 32 from the bat. Then sticking out big with 2 wickets from 3 overs, going at 5 an over. What superstars can do, the youngsters might take a while to replicate. The learning was out there. Suzie Bates indicating grace under pressure; the warm smile, in the end, concealing the pain of the defeat.
Even as deciding to bowl first proved to be a win-win in the end, Harmanpreet’s side mirrored familiar batting failures as seen in Mandhana’s well-rounded outfit. The biggies on either side- Alyssa Healy, Smriti herself, Beth Mooney and Deepti Sharma contributing 7, 14, 4 and 21 respectively.
On the other end of the spectrum, it was hard to see Lanning, Harmanpreet and, Devine contributing 16, 21 and 19 respectively. You had to admit, had it not been for a steady start by Mithali Raj and Danni Wyatt, two stoic collectors of runs up top, would Harmanpreet’s Supernovas’ have revealed in their victory?
A game that was marked by exceptional fielding, captain Kaur going anti-gravity, a few inches in the air to dismiss her opposite number early on brought curtains to the possibility of the Trailblazers’ big-hitting encore. A few overs later, a blinder by Veda Krishnamurthy did in Beth Mooney. How could one keep Perry out of action, you thought?
Just when Rodriguez- 25 off 23- had finally got going, giving able support to Suzie Bates missing out on familiar blazing strikes, Perry indulged in acrobatics to give fans a brief glimpse of her titanic fielding abilities, clinching a blinder off thin air, whilst diving well forward in the outfield.
Women’s cricket could do so well with international T20 leagues such as the IPL. As the classic adage goes, anything that the men can, the women can do it too. The explosive display at the Wankhede on May 22 proved just that.