Royal Challengers Bangalore 136 for 5 (Ahuja 46, Ghosh 31*) pace UP Warriorz 135 all out (Harris 46, Perry 3-16, Devine 2-23, Asha 2-27) by five wickets
Finally, Royal Challengers Bangalore won a match in the Women’s Premier League.
After five matches and countless questions, Smriti Mandhana and company picked up their maiden win, beating UP Warriorz by five wickets with two overs to spare at the DY Patil Stadium.
And that was Kanika Ahuja, a 20-year-old uncapped Indian, who shone with the bat for them. He is not the most expensive player in the WPL (Mandhana). He is not the most experienced all-rounder in T20I cricket (ellyse perry). None of the international captains in his ranks (sophie devine and Heather Knight).
His explosive innings of 46 for 30 balls, when Royal Challengers were 60 for 4 after nine overs in the 136 chase, has kept the team alive in the competition. The lefty, dispatched ahead of Indian international Richa Ghosh, kept his cool and eventually built a 60-run 47-ball clash with Ghosh, who played second fiddle with an unbeaten 32-ball 31.
The only problem was that she was unable to complete the well-earned fifty and see through to the win, falling while trying to sweep Sophie Ecclestone.
But Wednesday was Royal Challengers day from the start and it all worked out to the finish despite regularly scheduled hiccups such as losing both openers in two overs, Mandhana again falling to an offspinner and Perry and Knight playing avoidable shots.
Even before the game, it was established that this was Royal Challengers’ last chance to stay in contention for knockouts. they were still alive mathematically. But first, they had to put a number in the win column.
Winning the toss and opting to bowl first, Mandhana bowled the new ball to Devine, who has 110 wickets in 119 T20I. Prior to this game, he had only bowled two overs in the WPL and conceded runs. Devine last played international cricket in December last year and the rust on him was visible in those two overs. However, the ploy really worked as he got two starters Devika Vaidya and Alyssa Healy to set the tone. Megan Schutt then scored in the second over to dismiss Tahlia McGrath, giving Royal Challengers just the kind of arm shot they needed in a must-win game.
The great start seemed to give Royal Challengers renewed energy on the pitch. His body language was better and it showed in the field effort as well. They didn’t allow the Warriorz to build stands and in the middle, leaving them reeling at 43 for 5.
Then came a moment that could have undone everything Royal Challengers had worked for. Mandhana brought Perry out of the attack after his first two overs had gone for just seven runs and bowled Shreyanka Patil in his place.
That turned out to be the Warriorz’s first major over, with 15 runs coming out to go along with the team’s fifty. Harris then fired the next Asha Sobhana for 16, who had taken two wickets in his first two overs. The 50-run position between Harris and Deepti Sharma came almost to the race. In the middle, Ghosh missed a shot on Harris, and there was also a dropped catch from Knight.
But just as he seemed to be entering familiar territory for Royal Challengers, Perry returned and dismissed both established batsmen in the same over and added one more in the next over. Eventually, Warriorz were eliminated for a below average score of 135.
There are still many questions: the effect of the captaincy on Mandhana, the drastic drop in form for Renuka Singh and whether they can win another two games.
But for now, they’re still in the mix to make the knockouts, if only narrowly.