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RCB come back from the brink twice to knock defending champions MI out, set up WPL final with DC

WPL: Defending champions failed to chase 135 as RCB enter their maiden WPL final on the back of a special effort from Ellyse Perry

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

RCB beat MI in a last-over thriller to enter WPL final

Tricky chases such as these are often aced on the back of one good partnership, and MI seemed well on track after a 52-run stand between skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and Nat Sciver-Brunt.

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

Kaur’s dismissal sent MI into a mad scramble even as RCB tightened the screws. Sophie Molineux bowled 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 accounting for Pooja Vastrakar to cue in delirium at the 27,000-strong crowd as well as in the RCB dugout.

Earlier, Ellyse Perry was the lone woman standing for RCB as MI bowlers kept the opponents on a leash. RCB’s innings got off to a rousing start with a 14-run first over, but their hopes of building on the impetus were dealt a crippling blow by Hayley Matthews and Sciver-Brunt who struck in a space of three balls to send openers Sophie Devine and skipper Smriti Mandhana back.

Devine was guilty of playing inside the line to a straighter one from Matthews while Mandhana, following her two sweetly-timed boundaries, perished to Sciver-Brunt.

RCB’s Powerplay returns were a sorry 34/3. Only six boundaries were scored in the first six overs, including a 21-ball stretch — between the second over and the fifth — of no 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 gamely. The shackles were broken in the 13-run eighth over bowled by Saika Ishaque. Perry used her nimble footwork to find the straight boundary before Ghosh nonchalantly lofted the last ball of the over for a six. However, in the 26 balls that followed, RCB batters couldn’t find a single boundary.

The pressure eventually consumed Ghosh who mistimed her slog at long on in the tenth over. At the halfway stage of their innings, RCB were 51/4. Just when the capacity crowd had fallen silent, Perry imperiously walked into Vastrakar and deposited her over deep midwicket for a six. The 33-year-old Aussie, fresh from her memorable all-round outing against the same opponents three nights back, appeared the only batter in control.

She welcomed Amelia Kerr by dancing down to her loopy off-spin and stroking it to the straight fence for a four. Molineux hit Sciver-Brunt over mid-wicket but the latter struck on the next ball, her slower delivery crashing into Molineux’s stumps to end the run-a-ball 35-run partnership.

Perry, meanwhile, stepped up with consecutive fours of Ismail in the 17th over, the first through deft placement in the third man region and the next coming off an authoritative on drive. She brought up her half century in the same over off 40 balls and hit Kerr for a brace of boundaries — one off a half-tracker and the other through a sweep — to infuse some much-needed urgency in the final lap.

She eventually fell in the 20th over but not before a classy, unflappable 50-ball 66 that pushed RCB to 135 — including 45 off the last four — a total that would prove enough on a memorable night.


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