A crowd of over 2480 people watched a very special innings in the final league fixture of the Women’s T20 Challenge at the MCA Stadium on Thursday, where a Maharashtrian cricketer, who chose to represent Nagaland due to a lack of opportunities in her home state, set the stage on fire.
Kiran Navgire was one of the most anticipated talents crossing over from the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy (highest run-getter in the tournament) to the WT20C and she lived up to the hype, helping Velocity make the final despite losing the match against Trailblazers by 16 runs. Navgire smashed a remarkable half-century on her batting debut and it was also the fastest in the tournament's history.
Velocity was given a steep 191-run target to chase, however, effectively a total of 159 would have assured it a place in the final by virtue of its better NRR (net run rate). Openers Shafali Verma and Yastika Bhatia got off to a brisk start, getting 36 runs in the first four overs to set the pace of the innings.
Smriti Mandhana then brought in Salma Khatun, a proven partnership breaker, to try and rattle the duo and she delivered, angling a length ball to Bhatia which clipped the woodwork. Verma fell soon after and left Navgire with the massive task of taking the team into the final.
Navgire, who scored 163* in the recently concluded Senior Women’s T20 Trophy (the highest T20 score by an Indian batter, male or female) was expected to open but came in at number three. She got going from the get-go with Laura Wolvaardt holding fort at the other end - stitching together a 55-run stand for the third wicket to help Velocity to the fastest team 100 in the tournament.
READ: Kiran Navgire smashes fastest fifty on Women's T20 Challenge batting debut
However, Poonam Yadav struck almost immediately with a slower leg-break, tempting Wolvaardt to edge the ball to Ghosh behind the stumps. What followed was a collapse. Navgire stood strong at one end while wickets tumbled at the other, until she was stumped off Yadav’s lack of pace for 69. Velocity needed five runs from that stage to qualify for the final but took another 10 balls to get the job done.
The girls in purple eventually fell short of the overall target with the Trailblazers exiting the tournament with a consolatory win.
Put in to bat, Sabbhineni Meghana (73) took on Kate Cross, scoring 10 runs off her in the very first over. Trailblazers faced an early hiccup when skipper Smriti Mandhana mistimed a pull off Cross’s bowling to Simran Bahadur at deep mid-wicket. With Jemimah Rodrigues (66) for company, Meghana accelerated, keeping the run rate healthy with boundaries trickling in.
The duo managed a 113-run partnership, the second-highest in the tournament’s history (six runs short of the 119-run stand between Mandhana and Harleen Deol for Trailblazers against Supernovas in 2019). Rodrigues, who has looked a little apprehensive in parts in the two games in the tournament, drew confidence from her partner.
READ: Women's T20 Challenge: Velocity qualifies for final, to meet Supernovas on May 28
Velocity was ordinary on the field and gifted the pair four lifelines, two to each batter. Meghana was dropped by Rana on 16 and Ayabonga Khaka on 63, while Rodrigues got two lifelines in a single over, with Radha Yadav and Rana again failing to hold on to catches. It was a frustrating day for Bahadur, of whose bowling three of those catches were squandered.
While Cross, Rana, Khaka, and Bahadur eventually got wickets to their name, Sophia Dunkley, Hayley Matthews and Co. took Trailblazers to the highest total posted in the history of the tournament, but it still was not quite enough for the side to make the summit clash.
Velocity takes on Supernovas in the final of the tournament at the same venue on Saturday.