As I get down to writing this post (finally! ), the women's cricket season is at the half way mark, with the one day matches all concluded. Here's a very quick run down of the highlights!
The season began with a mixture of optimism and cynicism about the new format (see my last post). I for one, am not going to complain. Yes, my team played one match less than we did last year, but we played all our matches against more competitive teams than last year, so quality wins over quantity. The system works well for a team that finishes in the top two of a pool, which isn't a given anymore, as opposed to last season. The competition can only be good for women's cricket. The introduction of Kukaburra balls gave the pace bowlers more teeth (*wide wicked grin), and rarely did a couple of wickets not fall in the first 10 overs.
I liked the fact that the top four teams in the Elite group play another round robin league stage (The Super League), but would love for the the winner to be decided by a final rather than points. Not nice to have an annoying thing like net run rate deciding who wins, a final would be a lot cleaner.
Railways came out on top in the Elite division, remaining undefeated, mostly thanks to the efforts of their bowlers. Ekta Bisht (27 wickets), Shubhlaxmi Sharma (18) and Gouher Sultana (28) were the wreckers in chief. Southpaw Shweta Jadhav notched up the only century in the elite division in the league phase, while Anuja Patil and yours truly picked up five-fors. Uttar Pradesh took the second spot after a three way tie was resolved by NRR.
The Plate division did not have the luxury of round robin matches. The top six teams played each other in knock outs, with two teams getting byes in their quarter finals. Bengal finished winners, leading an East zone 1-2, with Odhisa second.
The inter zonals were held at Baroda, where spinners wreaked havoc on the red soil pitches. Low scoring games, early wickets and late surges were a common feature of all the encounters. Central zone defended their title, winning all their round robin matches. North zone, on the back of some brilliant bowling by left arm spinner Priti Bose, clinched second spot.
Ranchi hosted the Challenger Trophy, marking the first major women's tournament to be held at that ground. This tournament ;which used to be a collection of the 45 best cricketers in the country split into three teams; changed its format last year with an U-19 team replacing India Green (my thoughts on that later). In the final, India Blue chased down India Red's total of 183 easily to win the trophy. The stand out of the tournament though, was India U-19 captain Smriti Mandhana, who roared back into form after an indifferent senior season. Her 91 and 96* guided valiant chases, although both innings ended in losing causes. But they did quash any doubts about her ability to score big at the senior level.