Sunday, December 10, 2023

WPL: Harmanpreet steers MI to fourth straight win

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Harmanpreet Kaur-led Mumbai Indians got to the halfway mark of the league stage in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) on Sunday by serving another reminder of their title credentials. They beat UP Warriorz by eight wickets to register their fourth consecutive victory and pull two points clear at the top of the table.

In front of a near-packed Brabourne Stadium, MI restricted UPW to 159/6 after they had elected to bat. Saika Ishaque proved the game-changer again as she bagged 3/33. Mumbai chased it down comfortably, finishing on 164/2 in 17.3 overs with Harmanpreet smashing an unbeaten 53 off 33 balls.

UP Warriorz were off to a slow start with the bat. Opener Devika Vaidya fell cheaply and the score read 16/1 after three overs. Kiran Navgire, in at No 3, was dismissed for a 14-ball 17 and UP were in need of a big partnership. And they got that from skipper Alyssa Healy and Tahlia McGrath.

The Australians added 82 runs off 58 deliveries for the fourth wicket to put their team on top at that stage. Healy, who smashed an unbeaten 96 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the previous game, hit a number of powerful drives for four through mid-wicket to finish with 58 off 46 balls. McGrath, who scored 90 not out against Delhi Capitals in her previous innings, was more aggressive in the partnership, scoring a 37-ball 50.

At the 15-over mark, UP Warriorz were 133/2 with Healy and McGrath going strong. Just when it seemed MI would face a daunting target, Ishaque returned to the attack for her final over and turned the match in Mumbai’s favour.

The left-arm spinner first removed Healy, who was trapped in front attempting a reverse sweep. Two balls later, McGrath was deceived and stumped after stepping out. With both set batters dismissed in the same over, UP managed only 26 runs in the last five overs.

Ishaque, who already owned the Purple Cap as the highest wickettaker in the tournament, pulled further ahead with a tally of 12 wickets. Her consistent performances have made her a find of the tournament.

In reply, Mumbai got a strong start thanks to opener Yastika Bhatia. The left-hander hit eight fours and a six in her 27-ball 42, putting her team firmly in control at 51/0 at the end of the powerplay.

Hayley Matthews, who had scores of 47, 77* and 32 in the last three games, struggled for fluency and fell for a 17-ball 12.

Mumbai were in a spot of bother after losing both the openers on the score of 58. But their two most experienced batters – Natalie Sciver-Brunt and Harmanpreet – took over and added an unbeaten 106-run partnership for the third wicket.

Harmanpreet, who hit a stunning 30-ball 65 against Gujarat Giants in the tournament opener, was at her best again as she hit nine fours and a six. The India captain looked in command throughout and even pulled out her famous cover drive for six.

Sciver-Brunt (45* — 31 b) remained not out for the third consecutive innings, after scores of 55* and 23* against RCB and DC respectively.

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