Women’s T20 Challenge final: Supernovas start as favourites against unflustered Velocity

Supernovas during Women's T20 Challenge 2022 © BCCI/IPL

Women’s T20 Challenge 2022 will come to a close when two-time winners Supernovas take on Velocity in the final of the competition on Saturday (May 28) at the Maharashtra Cricket Stadium in Pune.

All three sides – Trailblazers being the third one – won one match in the round-robin and Net Run Rate decided the finalists, with the 49-run loss in the opening game effectively sealing defending champions Trailblazers’ fate.  NRR has been the deciding factor in all three iterations ever since the tournament was expanded to three teams after the one-off match in the 2018 edition.

Two matches each also meant that there wasn’t much room for errors as Trailblazers found out despite finishing with a win in the final group fixture. But they have no further say in the tournament and now it’s all down to Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas and Deepti Sharma’s Velocity.

What’s at stake?

The trophy, a triumph in the final is something teams always look forward to. And also the bragging rights as the last winner of the Women’s T20 Challenge before the tournament gets shelved, making way for the arrival of Women’s IPL – that’s reported to be scheduled for 2023.

Although you can’t read much into the competition’s history, Supernovas have the upper hand as far as the silverware goes. Velocity, in their only attempt at the trophy in the final, back in 2019, fell short in a last ball thriller as Kaur led the way for her side. However, Radha Yadav, who played a crucial cameo to finish the match, will be turning out for Velocity this time around.

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Kaur is no stranger to T20 success both as a player and a captain. One would expect that a team led by the Indian captain will start as the favourites going into the final against a relatively new skipper at the helm. Despite some experience at the domestic level, Sharma is a novice at her job as far as the T20 Challenge goes.

But that doesn’t mean her inexperience has shown during the two matches they played. From the outside, it seemed like Sharma has been enjoying the leadership role without being flashy. One also has to applaud the allrounder for not being afraid to use the experience of other players in her ranks.

Coached by Devieka Palshikaar, Velocity have a designated bowling captain in England bowler Kate Cross and a batting captain in South Africa’s Laura Wolvaardt. In the first two games, Sharma also didn’t hesitate to use the wisdom vice-captain Sneh Rana brings to the side.

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What they said:

“I think her innings was very impactful and everyone enjoyed it. The first ball she faced showed what kind of a player she is. It was great to see someone from India hitting the ball into the stands.”

Harmanpreet Kaur on Kiran Navgire and the impact she can have.

“I have been bowling with the new ball in domestic and international (cricket) and I am used to it. If you can control the new ball, you can bowl with the old ball as well.”

Deepti Sharma on taking the new ball and bowling in the power play

Players to watch out for:

Harmanpreet Kaur:

There are many contenders in the Supernovas dugout who can make it to the players to watch out for list. Alana King and Sophie Ecclestone with the ball, Pooja Vastrakar with her all-round ability, and Deandra Dottin with her belligerent power. While they all had their moments, it was their skipper Harmanpreet Kaur who has shone the brightest in the tournament so far for them.

Ever since finding her mojo back in the seventh edition of Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), Kaur has been on a dream run and has even turned around her indifferent ODI form in the Cricket World Cup 2022. The right-hander has the most runs in the tournament’s history with 319 runs to her name and in the group fixture against Velocity, she took Supernovas from 18 for 3 to 150 with a knock of 71 off 51 balls.

Although Kaur wouldn’t want to walk into a situation like that again, Supernovas would be relying on their talismanic skipper to come good in the final. Despite her vulnerabilities of occasionally playing around her front pad, she wasn’t afraid to prefer the leg-side against the Velocity spinners.

If Dottin gets them off to a good start, Supernovas will have their noses in front against the spinners in the middle overs if Kaur is in action during that phase. Pulling off blinders in the field would be the cherry on top if Supernovas aren’t satisfied with her batting contributions.

Shafali Verma:

Despite the arrival of Navgire, Shafali Verma still remains the most prized scalp in the Velocity batting line-up. After a tough time starting from WBBL07, Verma seems to be back in her elements, as the final few matches of the World Cup 2022 showed. The big-hitting teen from Haryana captained her domestic side in the recently concluded Senior T20 Trophy and led the side from the front. She had the third-most runs in the competition, with her 303 runs coming at a strike rate of 175.14.

A keen student of the game despite her carefree appearance, Verma has made technical adjustments to counter her weakness against the short-pitched stuff without affecting her front foot game. In the two matches played, she continued to show her prowess of whacking the bowlers down the ground whenever the bowlers pitched it full.

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The 18-year-old also has been trying to become a more rounded cricketer by adding bowling as a skill to her resume. Velocity had the confidence to bowl her against the Trailblazers duo of Sabbineni Meghana and Jemimah Rodrigues when they were going strong. The India opener also has improved her fielding – by far the weakest of her skills – in the quest to become the best version of herself.

If Verma gets going, Kaur and Co. will be once again be under the pump, as was the case in the group stages.

Predicted XI:

Supernovas: Priya Punia, Deandra Dottin, Harleen Deol, Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Suné Luus, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Pooja Vastrakar, Sophie Ecclestone, Alana King, Meghna Singh, Chandu V

Velocity: Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Kiran Navgire, Laura Wolvaardt, Deepti Sharma (c), Natthakan Chantham, Sneh Rana, Simran Dil Bahadur, Radha Yadav, Kate Cross, Ayabonga Khaka