Sophia Dunkley and Harleen Deol came through for Gujarat Giants on Wednesday in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) to hand Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) a third straight defeat in a contest between teams that had lost their opening two games.
At the Brabourne Stadium, Gujarat chose to bat first and amassed a strong score of 201/7 owing to the efforts of Dunkley (65 off 28) and Deol (67 off 45). Sophie Devine of New Zealand made a gallant attempt and scored 66 runs in 45 balls, but it wasn’t enough as RCB finished with 190/6 and lost by 11 runs.
Gujarat suffered a severe setback in the first game of the competition when captain Beth Mooney hobbled off the field after injuring her ankle. The Australian left-hander, who just earned the player of the match award for her unbeaten 74 in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final, is apparently out for the rest of the WPL season. The Giants have reportedly replaced her with South African Laura Wolvaardt.
After two losses in a row and with large shoes to fill, Dunkley rose to the occasion with a half-century off just 18 deliveries, which ranks as the fourth-fastest fifty in women’s T20 cricket.
With the ball, Megan Schutt provided RCB a solid start by bowling a maiden over to S Meghana in the opening position. Dunkley, though, swiftly assumed control and cleverly used the field to pick up boundaries on either side of the pitch. In the fifth over, the England right-hander destroyed left-arm spinner Preeti Bose for four fours and a six to quickly reach a spectacular fifty.
With Gujarat securely in position at 82/2 after Dunkley’s departure in the eighth over, it was Deol’s time to lead. The Indian right-hander took some time to get used to the situation because she hadn’t been pitching well lately. She arrived at 22 off 24, where she then let loose. After Schutt was hit for a six and a four, Deol added 38 runs off of only 16 balls.
It was another another forgettable possession for RCB. They had conceded 223/2 in their debut match against Delhi Capitals, 159/1 in just 14.2 overs against Mumbai Indians and leaked more than 200 against Gujarat too.
Head coach Ben Sawyer claimed that the bowlers had “sprayed the ball pretty much everywhere” following MI’s defeat. And Gujarat was the target of more of the same. They were frequently smacked throughout the park and lacked a clear game strategy.
Smriti Mandhana, the captain, and Devine arrived at the crease with tremendous intent as the RCB were off to a solid start in the chase in response. In just 27 deliveries, they reached their fifty-run partnership when Devine whacked Australian bowler Annabel Sutherland for a hat-trick of fours.
Nevertheless, Mandhana passed away shortly thereafter for 18 off of 14. The left-hander, who was the most expensive player in the WPL auction, may have made a mistake when he chose to chase down Australian off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner, who was tied for second place in terms of price, and miscued the ball to mid-on.
The following player, Ellyse Perry, got off to a good start and eventually chopped one from Mansi Joshi to point before dying for 32 off 25. Richa Ghosh, the wicketkeeper, hit a few fours but was dismissed by Gardner for a run-a-ball 10.
Devine delivered some solid punches that kept RCB in the match, but with her death in the 17th over, Gujarat was left with little to lose. Shreyanka Patil (11* off 4) and Heather Knight (30* off 11) of England brought the game to the final over, but Bangalore lost.
Tanuja Kanwar provided strong assistance for Gardner as she displayed her class and was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/31. In a high-scoring game, the youthful left-arm spinner seized the new ball, kept shooting it in and finding her areas, and came back with efficient numbers of 0/28.
The loss put RCB in an uncertain situation. In the five-team competition, only three teams can advance, leaving Mandhana and company with almost no margin for error.
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