RCB comes from the brink twice to eliminate defending champions MI and set up WPL final with DC | Cricket


Defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) were knocked out of the second edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) by the unflappable Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Friday in a chase that had its moments for both teams. Chasing 135/6 for a place in their second consecutive final, MI went from 43 off 30 to 20 off 18 to inexplicably lose the plot and the match by five runs, with the last three overs producing just 14 runs for three wickets.

RCB beat MI in last-gasp thriller to reach WPL final

Tricky chases like these are often achieved through good partnership, and MI looked well on track after a 52-run fight between the skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and Nat Sciver-Brunt.

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The turnaround began in the 18th, overturned by Shreyanka Patil. Bowling in the death of a batter like Kaur can be a double-edged sword, but Patil stuck to her guns. Not afraid to throw the ball, she almost got Kaur on the first ball after beating her in the air, but keeper Richa Ghosh missed the stumping. Patil, however, bowled Kaur five balls later, once again beating her in the air and having her caught at long on.

Kaur’s dismissal sent MI into a wild ride even as RCB tightened the screws. Sophie Molineux made a four-run 19th over with the wicket of Sajeevan Sajana, leaving Asha Sobhana with 12 to defend in the final over. The 32-year-old conceded just six, while Pooja Vastrakar caused a frenzy in front of the crowd of 27,000 as well as in the RCB dugout.

Earlier, Ellyse Perry was the only woman to represent RCB as the MI bowlers kept the opponents on a tight leash. RCB’s innings got off to a flying start with a 14-run opening over, but their hopes of building on that momentum were buoyed by Hayley Matthews and Sciver-Brunt who struck in three-ball space to send openers Sophie Devine and returning skipper Smriti Mandhana.

Devine was guilty of bowling inside the line against a straighter line from Matthews while Mandhana, following his two well-timed boundaries, perished to Sciver-Brunt.

RCB’s Powerplay returns were a dismal 34/3. Only six boundaries were scored in the first six overs, including a 21-ball stretch – between the second and fifth overs – without boundaries. RCB lost three wickets in this period for just five runs.

The stage was set for the in-form duo of Perry and Richa Ghosh to fashion a rearguard and the duo went about it valiantly. The chains were broken in the 13-run eighth bowled by Saika Ishaque. Perry used his nimble footwork to find the right boundary before Ghosh casually bowled the last ball of the over for a six. However, in the 26 balls that followed, the RCB batters could not find a single boundary.

The pressure finally consumed Ghosh who mistimed his work for long on in the tenth over. Halfway through their innings, RCB were at 51/4. Just as the crowd fell silent, Perry imperiously entered Vastrakar and deposited her to deep mid-wicket for a six. The 33-year-old Australian, fresh off her memorable all-around match against the same opponents three nights ago, appeared to be the only batter in command.

She greeted Amelia Kerr by dancing to her looping off-turn and caressing it to the right fence for a four. Molineux hit Sciver-Brunt at midwicket, but the latter struck on the next ball, his slower delivery crashing into Molineux’s stumps to end the 35-run run-a-ball partnership.

Perry, meanwhile, stepped up with four straight from Ismail in the 17th over, the first through a deft placement in the third man region and the next after an authoritative drive. She conjured up her half-century in similar fashion off 40 balls and hit Kerr for a pair of boundaries – one on a half-tracker and the other via a sweep – to inject some much-needed urgency into the last round.

She finally fell in the 20th over, but not before an elegant and unflappable 50-ball 66 that pushed RCB to 135 – including 45 over the last four – a total that would prove enough for a memorable evening.

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