Gujarat Giants got off the mark in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League with a nervy 11-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Brabourne Stadium here on Wednesday.
Chasing 202, RCB got off to a decent start, despite losing Mandhana early. Sophie Devine’s 45-ball 66 set the tone for a chase that was comfortable until the 15th over. However, the last five overs saw a hint of desperation and a whole lot of heart from the Gujarat side, which stuck to the basics to deny RCB its first points of the season.
After Gujarat chose to bat first on a fresh pitch, Sophia Dunkley took on the onus of utilising the powerplay more productively. While S. Meghana fell early, Dunkley gave new batter Harleen Deol all the time possible to settle down as she contributed 51 of the 60 runs this pair put on together for the second wicket. Dunkley’s fifty was the second fastest in T20s, coming off 18 balls, tying with Sophie Devine’s effort against India in Bengaluru back in 2015.
Deol then took advantage of some ordinary bowling to get to her own half century, and thanks to positive striking from D. Hemalatha and Annabel Sutherland, Gujarat managed to get past the 200-run mark for the first time this season.
RCB bowlers struggled to be economical but Shreyanka Patil and Heather Knight, with two wickets each to their names, showed promise. Knight’s utlity as a bowler in this tournament makes her tendency to underbowl herself when captaining England that much more puzzling.
Skipper Mandhana began in typical fashion, scoring three fluent boundaries, before falling to Ashleigh Gardner for the seventh time in T20s, keeping her struggle against off-spinners going.
Devine, who did much of the hitting in her 54-run opening stand with Mandhana, kept the momentum going with Ellyse Perry and Richa Ghosh.
This WPL season has not been kind to Gujarat Giants skippers. After Beth Mooney was ruled out of the tournament due to an injury, Sneh Rana took a hit to her fingers after trying to collect a return from Perry. She had to walk off the field to get her fingers taped with Gardner rallying the side in her absence. Her first decision to hand the ball to Mansi Joshi looked primed to backfire with the RCB batters taking her to the cleaners in the first few balls. Mansi, however, pegged one back, giving Perry some elevation and forcing her to hole out to short third.
Regular wickets from there on, kept RCB on the backfoot with the asking rate climbing steadily. Patil, who came into bat in the 20th over, could have been a option better utilised higher in the order, perhaps ahead of Pooja Khemnar. She managed 11 runs off the four balls she faced, a strike rate which may have just helped RCB get past the finish line to open its account in the tournament.