Mumbai Indians 207 for 5 (Harmanpreet 65, Matthews 47, Kerr 45*) beat Gujarat Giants 64 (Ishaque 4-11) by 143 runs
Despite all the glitzy build-up, what the inaugural Women’s Premier League needed to truly blast-off was an I’m her performance. And it came from Harmanpreet Kaur.
In many ways the Mumbai Indians captain’s 30-ball 65 could well be for the WPL what Brendon McCullum’s 158 was to the IPL.
It was as if Harmanpreet wanted to vent the ire of that run-out that turned the Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 semi-final in Australia’s favour. Gujarat Giants had filled all four of their overseas quota with Australians. And that was reason enough.
Harmanpreet found herself in the middle in the ninth over, with Mumbai at 69 for 2. She saw a set batter in Nat Sciver-Brunt depart after a 54-run partnership with Hayley Matthews, who was also dismissed in the next over to leave Mumbai at 77 for 3. After her player-of-the-series performance in the T20 World Cup, Ashleigh Gardner had yet again left a mark.
But Harmanpreet didn’t care. She just attacked the ball, like she has been doing for a long, long time for India. A fortunate outside edge in a attempted drive got her going before she timed a Sneh Rana ball through extra cover.
But that was merely the prelude. The 12th over showcased Harmanpreet at her Harmanbest. And obviously it was filled with sweep shots – one through backward square leg and another through forward square leg. Georgia Wareham, the bowler, could do little to stop the runs. Even Gardner felt the full force – and range – of Harmanpreet’s sweep, one ball hit powerfully through midwicket, the next paddled deftly past short fine.
By now, Harmanpreet was in overdrive. She hit seven fours off successive balls to bring up a 22-ball half-century, the first in the WPL. The famous bat-swing was on show. The confidence perhaps never left. Glimpses of her T20I hundred, that ODI knock, or more recently the unbeaten 143 were all on show. Sweeps, check. Pulls, check. Slices and scythes, check. Courtesy her hitting and Amelia Kerr’s able support, Mumbai were able to score 46 between overs 14 and 16 that gave them a launchpad.
All of Mumbai rose to applaud Harmanpreet when she finally fell, slicing one to short third off Rana in the 17th over, bringing the curtain down on an 89-run stand with Kerr off just 42 balls. Kerr then stepped up to lead the attack on the Giants as Mumbai added 41 off the next three overs to finish on 207 for 5. Their total of 207 for 5 was the joint-second highest across all major Women’s T20 leagues (WBBL, Kia Super League, The Hundred, Women’s CPL, T20 Challenge and now the WPL) behind Sydney Sixers’ 242 for 4 against Melbourne Stars in 2017-18.
Much like that starry night in 2008, the opposition on the receiving end of a truly astonishing T20 innings just couldn’t cope. It didn’t help that their captain and top-scorer at the T20 World Cup final, Beth Mooney, retired hurt after seemingly injuring her knee before the first over of the chase was even done. Giants were 8 for 3 by the end of the fourth over. Then 23 for 7 by the eighth over. And finally bowled out in the 16th to lose by 143 runs.