Navgire’s terrific knock eclipses Meghana and Rodrigues’ heroic efforts; takes Velocity to final

Kiran Navgire (L), Jemimah Rodrigues (M) and Sabbineni Meghana (R) © BCCI/IPL

A jaw-dropping innings from Kiran Prabhu Navgire powered Velocity to the final of the ongoing Women’s T20 Challenge despite them losing to Trailblazers by 16 runs in the third match of the event at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Thursday (May 26).

Deepti Sharma won her second consecutive toss and asked Trailblazers to set a score on the board. Sharma’s tactical brilliance was on show as she had a deep square-leg stationed for Smriti Mandhana and asked Kate Cross to pitch it short to her. Mandhana fell for the bait and ended up hitting it straight down to Simran Dil Bahadur’s throat in the third over.

Sharma’s tactical nous could have seen the back of Sabbineni Meghana (73 runs off 47 balls) immediately after Mandhana’s dismissal too had Sneh Rana hung on to an aerial cut at point. Sharma had covers, point, and short third very close to each other and asked Cross to bowl short outside off, Meghana hit a cut shot straight to Rana who failed to grab the opportunity.

Velocity were made to pay a heavy price as Meghana unleashed a wide array of shots from her repertoire. She made her intentions clear right from the outset and attacked the Velocity bowlers whenever they erred in terms of their line and length.

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She used her feet deftly against spinners and launched them down the track and over covers with ease. Her approach paid dividends as the Velocity spinners were forced to pitch it short and she cashed into those opportunities as well.

On the other hand, Jemimah Rodrigues – 66 runs off 44 deliveries – started tentatively and was content with strike rotation but cut loose as soon as she got her eye in. The duo put the Velocity bowlers under searing pressure and forced them to bowl in the areas of their strength. Velocity were so much under the pump that they dropped four catches while Rodrigues and Meghana were together in the middle.

The pair of Rodrigues and Meghana forced skipper Sharma to try out seven bowling options as none of the bowlers were able to contain them. Trailblazers looked well on course of getting over the 200-run mark as the pair were scoring well over the eight-run mark every over.

But Velocity came back in the game with a double strike between the space of 15 deliveries and dismissed both Rodrigues and Meghana to break their 113-run stand. Velocity bowlers thought that they will have some respite after seeing the back of both Rodrigues and Meghana but it wasn’t to be.

Both Hayley Matthews and Sophia Dunkley continued to muscle the bowlers and made sure that Trailblazers reached the 190-run mark in 20 overs. Their cameos at the end were much-needed or else the contributions of Rodrigues and Meghana would not have translated into a daunting total.

Meghana talked about her intent during the mid-innings and also touched upon how ideal the wicket while she was batting in the middle.

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“I wanted to use the power play to the maximum. There was not much movement on the wicket, it was pretty flat,” said Meghana.

When Velocity were about to start their innings they needed to score 159 or more to book a place in the final against Supernovas. But the two openers in Yastika Bhatia and Shafali Verma came with the clear intent to go after 191.

Both Bhatia and Verma provided a robust start to Velocity and were going at a run rate of nine runs per over before Bhatia was sent back to the dugout by Salma Khatun on the last delivery of the fourth over.

Verma continued her strategy of coming down the track to the left-arm spinner as she tried to launch an onslaught on Velocity’s premier spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad in her very first over. The strategy seemed to be working for Verma as she struck Gayakwad for 14 runs on her first five balls but the experienced Gayakwad ended Verma’s blitz as she trapped her in front of the stumps on her final delivery of the over to provide her side the second breakthrough.

Bhatia’s dismissal brought Navgire – the most anticipated batter of the tournament into the middle. With all the buzz going around she took guard against Khatun and lived up to all the talks on the very first delivery she faced. She got down on one knee and slog-swept Khatun over the deep mid-wicket region for a maximum to greet the crowd with a treat.

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Navgire made mincemeat of all the Trailblazers bowlers and didn’t spare any of them. She hammered the spinners down the ground and unleashed her much talked about power-hitting ability to the maximum. Even her mishits travelled the distance. She scored the fastest fifty in the history of the tournament as she shimmied down the track and tonked Gayakwad over long-on, on the fifth delivery of the 14th over.

Her knock kept Velocity in the hunt as she was taking them steadily towards the target. She kept dealing in boundaries and was waging a lone battle as wickets kept tumbling at the other end.

Ultimately it was her dismissal in the 17th over that put curtains on Velocity’s hopes of chasing 191 down. But her swashbuckling knock was enough to propel them way over 159 which was required to help them make it to the final. In the end Velocity fell just 16 runs short of the target.

Brief Scores: Trailblazers 190 for five in 20 overs (Sabbineni Meghana 73, Jemimah Rodrigues 66; Simran Dil Bahadur 2/31) beat Velocity 174 for nine in 20 overs (Kiran Prabhu Navgire 69; Poonam Yadav 2/33) by 16 runs POTM: Kiran Prabhu Navgire