Monday, 22 June 2015

T20 Season review

This article first appeared in my column ''Seamstress'' for Wisden India 

The T20 Women's domestic season proved to be closer and dramatic than  the One Day leg, punctuated by close finishes and the odd upset. The final winners though, were familiar faces, as Railways topped the Elite Division, and One Day runners-up Goa went one better in the T20 format to clinch the Plate Division title.

In the Elite Division, Group 'A' , played in Pune, proved to be the closest in the competition. It featured the teams that finished in the top four in the One Day format, along with minnows Gujarat. Odisha beat Maharashtra, who beat Delhi, who in turn beat Odisha again to open up the group. Railways stuttered in their matches against Gujarat and Delhi, until they were rescued in both games by the batting of Harmanpreet Kaur. She produced explosive yet mature innings of 81*(47) and 55*(33), and bailed her team out of high pressure situations. She also finished the highest scorer in the competition, with 262 runs from six innings. It took the last league match to decide who would proceed to the Super Leagues. It was a thriller, Maharashtra pushing Railways into a super over, and then proceeding to win it, thanks to the heroics of Smriti Mandhana, who along with Patil, scored 20 off the super over. Maharashtra Joined railways in the Super leagues.

In Group 'B', Punjab sprung a surprise by topping the group, winning all their games, mainly on the back of quick runs at the top of the order by Jasia Akhter. Madhya Pradesh were the second team to qualify.

In the Super Leagues, the other teams had a plan ready for Jasia Akhter, and thus tied down Punjab, who lost all their games. Maharashtra failed to repeat their upset performance of the league phase, as their total of 108 was not enough to stretch Railways. However, Smriti Mandhana continued her return to form against Madhya Pradesh, to make a chase of 105 against a good M.P. bowling side look easy. She scored an unbeaten 59 off 62 balls, to ensure Maharashtra finished second, and M.P. third on their home ground in Indore.

In the Plate Division, Karnataka, Goa, Assam, Andhra, Bengal, Assam, and Himachal Pradesh topped their respective groups and made the knock outs.

Goa were keen to avenge their One Day Plate Final loss to Andhra in the quarters, and did so easily with Shikha Pandey scalping two and then anchoring her side home in the chase. They then duly beat Assam to make their second final of the season.

Bengal benefited from contributions from their captain with bat and ball. Jhulan Goswami who finished the season with the lowest economy rate in the tournament (2.64 rpo), also finished as the sixth highest run scorer, with runs and wickets at crucial junctures. After making short work of Himachal in their quarter final, Bengal derailed  Karnataka in the semi final. Karnataka, who were chasing 101, imploded, losing five wickets for six runs, to finish on 88.

The final proved to be a thrilling encounter. Playing at home, the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Bengal got off to a poor start, losing four wickets in the first six overs. Three top order batsmen succumbed to Santoshi Rane's outswingers, before Paromita Roy and Jhulan Goswami stitched together a partnership. Bengal finally finished with only 79, but bowled tightly to have Goa at 34 for four in 11 overs. Jhulan had again delivered for her team, castling Goa captain Sunanda and the talismanic Shikha Pandey in the 11th over to tilt the balance in Bengal's favour. The pressure of seeing yet another title slip out of their hands almost got to the Goa batsmen, but the experienced Salma Divkar kept her head, and saw Goa over the line off the last ball, finishing with 31* off 30 balls. 

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