Women’s T20 Challenge & Beyond : A Great Advertisement for Women’s Cricket

The 2019 Women’s T20 Challenge was held in Jaipur between May 6th to May 11th and it was quite a spectacle. It was expected to be an exciting moment in women’s cricket and it did not disappoint.

 Women’s T20 Challenge & Beyond : A Great Advertisement for Women’s Cricket

The Women’s T20 Challenge showcased the talent of now-established Indian players like Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj and Jemimah Rodrigues and the international stars such as Danielle Wyatt and Amelia Kerr. The tournament also brought to the fore some less-known Indian players such as Harleen Deol, Sushma Verma and Shafali Verma.

All the matches were interesting and entertaining to watch in their own respect, starting with the opening game itself. The opening game was between Supernovas and Trailblazers, with Trailblazers winning the game this time and drawing first blood in the tournament. Trailblazers’ captain Smriti Mandhana provided the fireworks by smashing 90 runs in only 67 balls with as many as 10 fours and 3 sixes and got the Jaipur crowd on its feet. Chasing 141 runs for victory, Supernovas were always in the hunt as Harmanpreet Kaur tried to match Mandhana’s performance by knocking 46 runs off 34 balls. The nail-biting contest ended when Trailblazers’ Jhulan Goswami defended 3 runs off the last ball even after Harmanpreet knocked off 16 runs in the first five balls. It was surely an epic start to the tournament.

The second game between Trailblazers and Velocity was also as entertaining with Trailblazers taking the game right till the end. Although Smriti Mandhana failed, Harleen Deol anchored the innings with 43 runs to her name as Trailblazers limped to 112/6 in their 20 overs. In response, Velocity were in cruise control and seemed to chase the score quickly to bolster their Net Run Rate. Danielle Wyatt struck 46 runs off 35 balls and the 15-year old Shafali Verma announced her arrival in international cricket by hitting a quick-fire 34, matching the more experienced Danni Wyatt shot-for-shot. However, with just 2 required off 20 balls, Traliblazers seemed to have a glimmer of hope as Velocity lost 5 wickets in only 7 balls while adding no runs to the total. From a position of strength, Velocity almost threatened to botch the chase and lose the match.

With the final league match being played and all teams having an equal chance to make it to the finals, the tournament was heading to a very interesting finish. The final league match was between Supernovas and Velocity and even this game wasn’t without drama. In this match, it was Supernovas’ Jemimah Rodrigues turn to shine as she made 77 runs of only 48 balls by hitting 10 fours and a six. Supernovas finished with 142/3 in their 20 overs. Velocity’s Danni Wyatt scored a quick-fire 43 of 33 balls hitting 4 fours and 2 sixes to keep the chase on track. However, Mithali Raj, the team’s captain, batting alongside Veda Krishnamurthy, knew that they needed only 117 to secure a place in the finals and chose to reach that score safely instead of knocking off the runs and created some controversy. They eventually reached 130/3 in their 20 overs and qualified for the finals along with Supernovas.

The finals between Velocity and Supernovas was equally exciting. There were a lot of twists-and-turns before determining the winners of the tournament. Supernovas won the toss and elected to field first and their bowlers did not disappoint. They reduced Velocity to 37/5 in just the eighth over to get the upper hand in the game. However, Amelia Kerr and Sushma Verma countered brilliantly to take Velocity to 121/6 in their 20 overs. Supernovas’ Priya Punia and Jemimah Rodrigues were going along well. At the score of 53/1 in 10 overs, it seemed that the score would be successfully chased down. However, Velocity’s bowlers sparked a mini-collapse taking quick wickets taking Supernovas from 53/1 to 64/5 to raise hopes for Velocity. However, Harmanpreet’s counter-attacking half-century all but assured victory for the Supernovas. But then again, with 7 runs required from 6 balls and victory is sight, Harmanpreet went for one shot too many and perished. Radha Yadav hit a boundary in what was a last-ball finish and a fitting end to the tournament.

In essence, the tournament had everything, sea-sawing fortunes, batting collapses, match-winning cameos, close finishes and interesting controversies which will make it a tournament to remember. However, this was not the only contest this week.

The other contest was taking place in South Africa as they hosted an ODI series against Pakistan. Many expected South Africa to be a better team and to win against Pakistan comfortably but Pakistan had other ideas. Two of the three matches were one-sided and both teams had exceptional performances and memorable moments throughout the series.

In the first match, Pakistan routed South Africa to 63 all out and chased the score comfortably to unexpectedly lead the series 1-0. Sana Mir took 4 South African wickets for just 11 runs and Javeria Khan completed the formalities by making 34 off 43 deliveries.

The second match was again one-sided but was in favour of South Africa this time. Batting first, Pakistan was shot out for 147 with Masabata Klaas claiming a hat-trick and thus becoming the 10th woman and the 2nd South African to take a hat-trick. Laura Wolvaardt scored 74 not out in 104 balls to steer South Africa home and level the series 1-1.   

The series decider was the best match of the three. Batting first, South Africa made a solid foundation with half-centuries from openers Laura Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee. Sune Luus built on this foundation and scored 80 runs and Chloe Tryon helped the score balloon to 265/6 with an impressive cameo. Sana Mir picked up a wicket for Pakistan, becoming the most successful spinner in women’s cricket. In reply, Javeria Khan scored 74 runs of 103 balls and later Aliya Riyaz scored 71 runs of 82 balls to take the match towards an exciting finish. With 11 to get off 4 balls, Nashra Sandhu scored a six in the penultimate ball and score a single in the next to secure a tie and end the series 1-1.

The week marked an exciting week in women’s cricket with a lot of individual brilliance, close matches and magical moments that women’s cricket can surely look up to and be proud of. Much like the final scoreline, in the end, it was not the individual teams but women’s cricket in general who won a lot of hearts and fans for a performance that truly underscores their potential. They would now look at making future matches as interesting as these so that they are watched and followed by millions around the world.