The defending champions of the Women's T20 Challenge, Trailblazers, will start their campaign against Supernovas in a re-match of the final from the previous edition. Despite losing veteran Jhulan Goswami, the young unit, led by Smriti Mandhana, looks ready to take the bull by its horns and repeat their heroics from 2020.
Here's a look at what we can expect from the Trailblazers in the fourth edition of the Women's T20 Challenge:
What have they done in the past?
Trailblazers are the defending champions of the Women’s T20 Challenge. They won the title in the 2020 edition of the competition, held in Sharjah. The Smriti Mandhana-led side narrowly missed the opportunity to win the inaugural exhibition match in 2018. After not making the final in the second edition in 2019, they won it all against Team Supernovas in the third edition.
Trailblazers won the Women’s T20 Challenge in 2020.
Smriti Mandhana (c), Poonam Yadav (vc), Arundhati Reddy, Hayley Matthews, Jemimah Rodrigues, Priyanka Priyadarshini, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh Thakur, Richa Ghosh, S. Meghana, Saiqa Ishaque, Salma Khatun, Sharmin Akter, Sophia Dunkley, Sujata Mallick, Shraddha Pokharkar
Likely playing XI
Smriti Mandhana (c), Hayley Matthews, S. Meghana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Sophia Dunkley, Richa Ghosh (wk), Arundhati Reddy, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Sharmin Akter, Renuka Singh Thakur
Also Read: Women's T20 Challenge Preview: Will Supernovas regain bragging rights?
S Meghana became the talk of the town after making her comeback in the series against New Zealand before the World Cup, where she performed exceedingly well. While opening the batting with Shafali Verma, she scored 114 runs across three matches at a strike rate of 108.57. Unfortunately, Meghna was not part of India’s ODI World Cup squad.
In the recently concluded Senior Women’s T20 Trophy, Meghana found herself amongst the runs yet again. She scored 263 runs in eight matches, including a matchwinning innings of 84 from 63 balls against Odisha in the semi-final. She backed that performance in the final against Maharashtra as the right-hander scored another half-century in a steep chase. Her 52 off 32 balls led Indian Railways to yet another domestic title. If she gets the opportunity to open the batting with Smriti Mandhana, the left-hand and right-hand combination might take Trailblazers to a dominant position inside the powerplay.
Despite a heart-break in the semi-final against Australia in the recently concluded ICC World Cup in New Zealand, West Indies’ Hayley Matthews was amongst the top performers of the tournament. She gave West Indies a perfect start to the tournament by smashing a century in the first game against New Zealand. She topped the runs chart for West Indies in the tournament, with 260 runs across eight matches.
Matthews was one of the most impactful off-spinners of the ICC tournament as well. Along with her batting heroics, she was also the highest wicket-taker for West Indies (10) in the World Cup. Unsurprisingly, she was the top wicket-taker and second-highest run-scorer for Warriors in the FairBreak invitational tournament as well.
The 24-year-old from Barbados is a genuine match-winner and she has proved that time and again in the past.
Also Read: Dunkley, Dean, McGrath, Brown and the Charlotte Edwards touch
X factor: Sophia Dunkley
Sophia Dunkley’s resurgence at the international level for England has been well documented for over a year now. Since making her comeback in March 2021, Dunkley has been a permanent member of the English Playing XI. The right-hander found her groove in the later stages of the World Cup in New Zealand as she scored two back-to-back half-centuries against Bangladesh and South Africa, respectively.
One of her sublime innings came in the FairBreak invitational tournament when she smashed an unbeaten 123 off just 73 balls in the chase against the Barmy Army. The batting all-rounder also took seven wickets in the FairBreak Competition, including 2/14 against champions, Tornadoes. The 23-year-old, playing her first Women’s T20 Challenge tournament will have a lot to offer in the coming week.
The former England captain and Dunkley’s coach at the Southern Brave in The Hundred tournament, Charlotte Edwards, has already called her one of the most exciting talents to watch out for.
“I think she’s matured massively in the last two to three years. Even within the last six months, what you have seen with the Ashes, shows she’s growing, she’s only 23 and she is learning lots about her game. She has got that real sort of desire to want to, get better, which is so important as a top international player,” Edwards told Women’s CricZone in April 2022.
With strong domestic talent, the exciting leadership of Smriti Mandhana, and the experience of international players, Trailblazers are primed to repeat their success in this edition of the Women’s T20 Challenge.