For those who followed Women’s Premier League 2023, the inaugural edition of the T20 tournament will be remembered, among other things, for Mumbai Indians’ dominance during the league stage.
Harmanpreet Kaur and Co set the benchmark in the first half of the season by winning their first five games. In fact, they weren’t just winning, they were dominating their opponents. Gujarat Giants were beaten by 143 runs in the tournament opener, Royal Challengers Bangalore by nine wickets, Delhi Capitals by eight wickets, UP Warriorz by eight wickets, and GG again by 55 runs.
Mumbai seemed destined to earn a direct ticket to the final. But as things turned out, they were pipped by DC at the top of the points table eventually and will have to compete in the eliminator. And as luck would have it, they will be up against the team that halted their incredible march and handed them their first defeat of the season – UP Warriorz.
Even though both teams were locked at 1-1 in terms of head-to-head, it was Mumbai who finished the league stage four points above UP. In a short-ish tournament, two more wins are a lot and that makes MI the favourites heading into the eliminator.
Top heavy MI
A lot of the credit for Mumbai’s huge victories in the tournament can go to their top order with the bat. West Indies’ Hayley Matthews started with a bang and remains MI’s highest run-scorer in the tournament. Yastika Bhatia has also impressed and contributed some crucial runs as opener. Natalie Sciver-Brunt has slowed down a bit after a bright start but her class can never be doubted. While skipper Harmanpreet has led the way in the middle order with three half-centuries.
Perhaps one area of concern for MI their is their lower middle order. If they lose early wickets, it could be a challenge to produce the firepower needed in the second half of the innings.
In terms of bowling, there is plenty of variety in the MI attack. Three of the top four wicket-takers in the tournament are from Mumbai Indians – Kerr, Saika Ishaque and Matthews. Along with Sciver-Brunt and Wong, Harmanpreet has options for each stage of the innings.
UP eye solidity
It’s been an up and down season for the Warriorz. They have neither won nor lost more than two matches in a row. At the end of the player auction, it was evident that they had a strong squad at their disposal with match-winners aplenty. They have even gained plaudits for being the team that has given most exposure to Indian domestic talents.
But their season hasn’t been defined by solidity. In fact, three of the four wins achieved by UPW were last-over thrillers, with two of those matches ending with one ball to spare. Against MI in the eliminator, Alyssa Healy and Co will be eyeing a more comprehensive performance.
In Healy, the Warriorz have arguably the finest opener in world cricket. On her day, as she has shown a number of times through the course of her glorious career, the keeper-batter can take down the best of attacks.
Then there are the two other Australians in the batting order – the top-ranked T20I batter in the world Tahlia McGrath and the supremely powerful Grace Harris. The duo has played a massive role in guiding UPW to the playoffs with its incredible ball striking.
If the Indian batters around these Aussies – like Devika Vaidya, Kiran Navgire, Deepti Sharma and Shweta Sehrawat – can get going, UPW will find themselves in a promising position.
With the ball, meanwhile, UPW have the irrepressible Sophie Ecclestone leading the way. The left-arm spinner from England started the tournament slowly by her standards but is now the leading wicket-taker. She has contributed with the bat as well and UPW will be banking on her to deliver the goods once again.
With Deepti, Rajeshwari Gayakwad and young Parshavi Chopra in the mix along with Ecclestone, UPW have a strong spin attack that could challenge most batting lineups.
Mumbai Indians and UP Warriorz may have taken contrasting routes to the eliminator but come Friday at the DY Patil Stadium, both teams will know they have what it takes to reach the final. It promises to be a fascinating battle and as is often the case, it could come down to who handles the pressure better.
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