Women’s T20 Challenge: What gives Supernovas an indomitable look?

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

When the Harmanpreet Kaur-led Supernovas defeated Trailblazers in the first game of the ongoing Women’s T20 Challenge on Monday (May 23), they looked like a team with all the bases covered. If a team has all the areas taken care of by people who understand their roles to perfection, then it allows them to thrive even if the situation becomes tricky.

Ideal opening combination

When it comes to batting in T20s, a lot of stress is laid upon big hitting and having batters that can tonk the ball from the word go. Well all of it makes sense as there are only 120 balls to play with and the format hardly allows batters to get their eye in.

But akin to the two other formats, T20 cricket also requires batters to change gears as per the demand of the situation. You can’t just carry on throwing punches without paying heed to whether they are landing or not. With Priya Punia and ‘The World Boss’ Deandra Dottin, the opening pair of Supernovas is ideal in that regards. Punia understands her role really well.

With all the limelight on Dottin, Punia tries to fly under the radar and gets the job done. She is adept at rotating the strike and that prevents her from getting knocked over while trying to up the ante. While Punia doesn’t wield the wide array of strokes that her partner possesses, she understands her strengths and limitations as a player and takes the bowlers by surprise with her quick thinking.

In the game against Trailblazers, Punia took the strike against Renuka Singh on the first ball and it just took her a few balls to realise that the wicket had nothing in it for the pacers. Full of gumption, she walked down the wicket to Renuka and launched her over the long on fence for a six. Her 22-run knock displayed that she did not go searching for boundaries when the opportunities were not there.

The fact that she was able to keep Dottin on strike helped the World Boss to take full advantage of the fielding restrictions in the powerplay and dent the spirits of Trailblazers’ bowlers upfront.

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Astute Middle order

The middle order of Supernovas is one of its biggest strengths and gives their batting order a menacing look. In Harleen Deol, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, and Suné  Luus they have batters who are highly versatile. When Deol walked in after Dottin’s departure, she knew that she had to take over from Dottin and carry on the role of the aggressor.

With a jaw-dropping strike rate of 184.21, Deol played her role to perfection. She only faced four balls in the powerplay and didn’t have the luxury of making use of the fielding restrictions much.

Her flamboyant approach helped Kaur to settle down and find her feet in the middle. After she got dismissed, Kaur realised that it was time for her to switch gears and hence she started taking more risks to make sure that she provided Supernovas the much needed impetus at the end.

The realisation of taking up the role that needs to be taken according to the demands of the situation is a rare trait. It was something that the Trailblazers’ batters clearly lacked in the first game and they kept stumbling one after other while taking the Supernovas’ bowlers on, rather than digging in for a while and waiting for the right opportunity to come.

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A versatile all-rounder

One of the most challenging roles as a bowler in T20 cricket is to excel when the opposition is looking to biff every other ball that is being bowled. When Pooja Vastrakar was tossed the ball by her skipper, Trailblazers were on the ascent and it seemed impossible to stop them. But Vastrakar, unlike the other quicks on the night, spent time discussing her field with Kaur and that eventually bore fruit.

Realising that the wicket had nothing in it for the seamers, Vastrakar laid down cobwebs for Trailblazers and they got trapped. Hayley Matthews was the first one to fall prey. Vastrakar asked mid-on to drop back and placed a short third.

The field and the line forced Matthews to make room for herself and hit through the off side and execute shots which were almost impossible given the length that was being bowled. She tried to go over cover on a delivery that wasn’t in her reach, lost her shape in the process and ended up nicking it to the wicket-keeper.

Vastrakar relied on keeping it wicket to wicket and didn’t provide any room to the batters to either free their arms or swing through the line. The same approach helped her get Mandhana next and Sophia Dunkley later. Both batters succumbed trying to manufacture shots that weren’t actually there.

“It was quite windy throughout, so we had a chat during the innings break that we must try to limit them in the powerplay. After that, our focus was to be on cutting down the boundaries and staying consistent with our wicket-to-wicket lines,” said Vastrakar, after her outstanding spell.

Although she couldn’t do much with the bat, her prowess with the same is not unknown to anyone and it is just a matter of time before she lets loose and injects the venom the Supernovas will require in the death overs.

“She is arguably one of the most powerful strikers of the cricket ball going around in India,” said Akanksha Kohli, Karnataka cricketer.

Her fellow teammate Alana King also heaped praise on her and acknowledged her abilities both with the ball and bat in hand.

“She’s a phenomenal athlete. It’s great to have her on my team and be training alongside her. She runs in and bowls hard and fast every bowl,” said King.

“And she gives it a good whack [with the bat] as well. It was awesome to see her clean up. She bowled exceptionally well today and really got us back into the game when things were drifting away,” added King.

Varied bowling attack

With Sophie Ecclestone, King, Vastrakar, V Chandu and Meghna Singh, Supernovas have a lot of variety in their bowling attack and their skipper Kaur uses it to her own advantage.

She gives a lot of freedom to both her seamers and spinners and provides them with the kind of fields they ask for. Her support enables the duo to attack with the new ball without thinking too much about conceding runs. Even if the duo fails in its pursuit, Kaur has ace spinners up her sleeve and they help Supernovas when it comes to providing breakthroughs in the middle overs, which was the case against Trailblazers in the last game.

Both King and Ecclestone dried the runs and forced the Trailblazers to go after them and then strangled them one after the other. Although the wicket at the MCA Stadium in Pune is traditionally known to help spinners – even if there isn’t much purchase on offer, as was the case in the last game- the Supernovas spinners are too good to miss out.