Trailblazers to lock horns with spirited Velocity in pursuit of final berth

Smriti Mandhana (L) and Deepti Sharma (R) © BCCI/IPL

Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers were being hailed as the one of the favourites to win this year’s Women’s T20 Challenge right from the outset. But a 49-run rout at the hands of Supernovas in the tournament opener has dented their chances of making it to the final of the event.

The mindset with which Trailblazers’ batters approached their innings in pursuit of 164 against Supernovas was largely right but they made a tactical error and it not only cost them the game but has also pegged them back in the race to the final.

The idea of taking Pooja Vastrakar on, who was relentless in terms of her planning and execution, was not a bad gambit at all. But they should have given up on the ploy after losing both Hayley Matthews and their skipper in succession. They chose not to and ended up losing two more to Vastrakar in the form of Sophia Dunkley and Salma Khatun and that’s how they lost the plot.

Had they dropped the idea of taking on Vastrakar after suffering the double whammy, and targeted the bowlers operating at the other end, then the result would have been certainly different and that would have kept their net run rate in a much better shape than how it looks at the moment.

What’s at stake

A place in the final is up for grabs!

Supernovas have already secured a berth in the final by virtue of their net run rate despite losing to Velocity in the last match. So, the race to the final is now between a spirited Velocity and the crestfallen Trailblazers.

Mandhana-led Trailblazers will be under the pump heading into the game as they have a very poor run rate because of their 49-run loss to Supernovas in the first game. They need to register an emphatic victory over Velocity to pip them in the race to the final.

Deepti Sharma’s side, on the other hand, won their clash against Supernovas convincingly. They do not necessarily need to win against Trailblazers, even if they lose, they just need to make sure that they do not go down by a considerable margin.

What they said:

“I have worked on a few shots apart from the ones that I play on a regular basis and will look to execute the same in the next game.

– Shafali Verma on the new arrows she has added in her quiver.

“We were at par with them till the 9th over, but lost track. We need to take more singles and doubles, that is something that is underrated.”

– Smriti Mandhana on the importance of strike rotation.

ALSO READ: Women’s T20 Challenge: Kiran Navgire, Maya Sonawane among uncapped players to watch out for

Players to watch out for:

Shafali Verma:

The 18-year-old dasher put on a show in the game against Supernovas on Tuesday. It was her quick blitz that put Velocity in the ascendancy right from the start of their run chase and saw them win the game easily in the end.

Verma has always been known for her ability to dominate pacers and put them off their lengths but it’s her inability to execute the same against the spinners that ails her.

Hence, Harmanpreet Kaur was quick to introduce her ace left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone upfront with the new ball to get rid of her early. But Verma was prepared for the challenge and took Ecclestone on while backing her ability to go big.

Having read the pitch well, she advanced down the track to Ecclestone and put her off her lengths. She never really allowed her to bowl a bunch off dot balls and outwitted Kaur’s move with her valiant strokeplay.

Hayley Matthews:

The West Indian batting all-rounder looked good during her stay at the crease in the first game and was able to provide Trailblazers with the kind of start they needed in pursuit of 164. Although she couldn’t really capitalise on the start she got, the strokes she played vividly outlined her form. Her intent was to get her team off to a flyer and she fell for the cause.

In addition to her batting prowess, Matthews also contributes tremendously with her off-breaks. Her three-wicket haul in the first game played a pivotal role in restricting Supernovas to 163 or else they would have flown away with their score. With Thursday’s game being a do or die fixture for Trailblazers, they would require Matthews to rise to the occasion.

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 2 matches, Velocity 1– 1 Trailblazers

Predicted XI:

Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (c), Hayley Matthews, Sophia Dunkley, Jemimah Rodrigues, Sharmin Akhter, Salma Khatun, Richa Ghosh (wk), Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh

Velocity: Shafali Verma, Laura Wolvaardt, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Natthakan Chantham, Deepti Sharma (c), Kiran Navgire, Sneh Rana, Radha Yadav, Kate Cross, Ayabonga Khaka, Maya Sonawane