Mandhana's 90 Pips Harmanpreet Exciting Flash T20-Challenge-Prelude > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Mandhana's 90 pips Harmanpreet blitz in thrilling T20 Challenge opener

The frenetic final moments of a thriller

Smriti Mandhana scored a classy 67-ball 90 but her side, Trailblazers, survived by the skin of their teeth, as Harmanpreet Kaur threatened to pull off a near-impossible feat in the final over of the game. Eventually, the Supernovas finished just two runs short of Trailblazers' total of 140 for 5, getting the Women's T20 Challenge off to a rollicking start.

How good was the game as an advert for Women's T20 challenge?

Very good. Two of the modern-day stars of Indian cricket - Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur - and opposing captains took it upon themselves to drag eyeballs with two contrasting, but equally thrilling, batting performances in a game that went down to the final ball. The Supernovas skipper Harmanpreet, who had thrillingly chugged down 16 runs off five Jhulan Goswami deliveries until then, played and missed the final ball with 'keeper Kalpana Ravi running out Lea Tahuhu.

Sound like a match you recently saw?

Should it have gone to the final ball?

No. When birthday girl Sophie Ecclestone bowled the perfect penultimate over, giving away just two runs and taking out the dangerous Sophie Devine (32 off 22), the writing was pretty much on the wall for Supernovas, who now needed 19 to win off the final over. But Harmanpreet had other ideas. In a dream match-up between two of India's finest cricketers, Harmanpreet took down the legendary Goswami by hitting three fours (she hit four in the final over) towards the extra cover fence. The last of those fours was a mere inches away from hitting the advertising cushions on the full for a six and could have left Harmanpreet needing just a single of the final ball for win.

Was the thriller witnessed by a lot of people at the ground?

Not quite. The 300 people that did get in through the turnstiles in Jaipur did their best to create an atmosphere from the two opened stands either side of the one of the sightscreens. But given the general pre-tournament optimism of a better product and the start on a public holiday in Jaipur, the turnout was slightly underwhelming. Given the finish to the game that saw stalwarts like Suzie Bates and Stefanie Taylor engage in animated strategy chats with Smriti Mandhana and Jhulan Goswami, there is promise of more occupancy in the remainder of the three games.

Did Mandhana's innings make the difference in the game?

Yes. Her 90 off 46 was almost double of the next best score achieved by any other player on the pitch (Harmanpreet made 46* off 34) and given it wasn't your typical Smriti Mandhana innings, it most certainly made the difference to this contest.

Why was it an unusal Mandhana innings?

The Trailblazers captain and opener struggled to come to terms with the two-paced nature of the pitch and spent a good half her innings span looking for timing that had deserted her. Her opposite number, Harmanpreet, played a part in this slow start by throwing on the spinners and offering no pace. At the end of the PowerPlay, Mandhana had played 19 balls and scored only 10 runs, scoring at a rate of 52. The final 48 balls of her innings though saw the star batter strike at a rate of 168!

What changed the momentum?

The medium pacers through the middle overs. Harmanpreet veered slightly away from the conventional norms of bowling spin through the middle overs of a T20 innings once Anuja Patil dismissed Suzie Bates early in Trailblazers' innings. Five of the first seven overs were bowled by the troika of Patil, Radha Yadav and Poonam Yadav. It was in the ninth over, bowled by Poonam, did Trailblazers break a sequence of 25 balls without a boundary to inject some rhythm into the innings. When Lea Tahuhu was introduced after the time-out in the 11th over, the extra pace on the ball helped with the strokemaking, with Mandhana in particular using her inside-out loft over extra cover to great effect.

Harleen Deol played her part in ther 129-run second-wicket stand by promptly turning the strike over to let Mandhana take control. The Trailblazers' skipper, who has recently bemoaned her inability to bat through a T20 innings while playing for India, was dismissed only in the final over of the innings by when she had 10 fours and three sixes.

Should Trailblazers have closed out the game earlier?

There are two ways of looking at it. Mandhana's team were dire with their fielding, with as many as three dropped catches in the first 10 overs. Shakira Selman, who saw Deepthi Sharma, Stefanie Taylor and Hemalatha drop catches, eventually took it upon herself to effect a run-out of her own bowling to dismiss the free-stroking Jemimah Rodrigues.

In hindsight, all those early drops, only delayed the arrival of Devine and Kaur. The two power-hitters, joined hands at 74 for 4 and put on a quickfire 48-run stand, before Ecclestone made the possible impossible, which Harmanpreet nearly convinced was possible after all.

Brief scores: Trailblazers 140/5 in 20 overs (Smriti Mandhana 90, Harleen Deol 36; Radha Yadav 2-28) beat Supernovas 138/6 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 46*; Sophie Ecclestone 2-11) by 2 runs.

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