High-flying Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians face off in fitting finale
The two dominant teams in the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) will fight for the title at the Brabourne Stadium on Sunday
They have been the best teams in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL), finishing four points clear of the third-placed UP Warriorz in the league stage, and on Sunday Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians will fight for the title at what is expected to be a packed Brabourne Stadium.
Both the teams have produced dominating performances and have had a somewhat similar route to the final. While DC won four of their first five games, MI won five straight but faltered towards the end to allow Meg Lanning and Co a direct route to the final.
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Harmanpreet Kaur’s team, however, bounced back by delivering a stellar performance in the eliminator against UP Warriorz. With the crowd firmly in their favour through the tournament, Mumbai Indians were emphatic with bat and ball to set up a fitting finale for the T20 competition.
As has been the case throughout, there is little to choose between the teams ahead of the final. During the league stage face-off, they won a game each. In their first clash, MI won by eight wickets and then DC returned the favour with a nine-wicket win.
In the lists of top performers too, players from DC and MI feature prominently. Lanning, Natalie Sciver-Brunt, Hayley Matthews, Harmanpreet and Shafali Verma are in the top 10 among run-getters, while Saika Ishaque, Amelia Kerr, Hayley Matthews, Issy Wong, Shikha Pandey, Sciver-Brunt and Marizanne Kapp are among the leading wicket-takers.
Serial winner Lanning
Delhi Capitals will take great confidence from having edged out Mumbai Indians for the top spot in the league stage to become the first finalists of WPL. They are the only team in the tournament to have not lost two matches in a row, a feat achieved on the back of all-round solidity.
Skipper Lanning is the leading run-scorer in the tournament and her versatility at the top of the order has set the tone for her team. The Australian legend has won a staggering five World Cup titles in her career and against Harmanpreet in finals, she has a 2-0 lead with victories at the 2020 T20 World Cup and 2022 Commonwealth Games. She knows how to win big games and that will be a massive advantage for the Capitals.
In Lanning, Shafali, Jemimah Rodrigues, Alice Capsey, Kapp and Jess Jonassen, DC have a formidable top six with the bat. Capsey’s form in particular has lent great stability to the middle order and MI will surely be wary of the 18-year-old’s threat.
South African Kapp has shouldered the responsibility with the new ball and troubled batters with her accuracy and movement. Pandey has also been impactful through different stages of innings and is the leading wicket-taker for DC. Australian left-arm spinner Jonassen has had a quiet tournament by her standards but can be counted on to deliver under pressure.
A 72-run victory in a knockout game is just the sort of confidence boost MI needed after their minor slump during the league stage. UP Warriorz were stacked with match-winners aplenty, but Mumbai Indians were clinical in the eliminator.
Harmanpreet, one of two Indian captains in the five-team tournament, will be determined to get her hands on the coveted WPL trophy. Her head-to-head record against Lanning may not be favourable but the 34-year-old will know there is enough firepower in her team this time to get the job done.
Mumbai’s bowling attack has been the strongest in the competition. In Ishaque, Kerr, Matthews and Wong, they have players among the top five wicket-takers of the tournament. With her sensational hat-trick in the eliminator, Wong will provide that extra zing to the MI attack in the final and DC will know they need a strong start with the bat.
In terms of batting, Sciver-Brunt returning to her best is just what MI need. The 30-year-old England right-hander was the joint most expensive player in the WPL auction, and on her day can take down most opponents.
Mumbai cover pretty much all bases with their four overseas players. Matthews opens the batting and bowls useful off-spin, Sciver-Brunt opens the bowling and is arguably the finest batter in world cricket. Kerr is one of the best spinners in the game and bats in the middle order while Wong is one of the most promising pace bowlers. In fact, Matthews, Kerr and Sciver-Brunt feature among the top five all-rounders in the ICC T20I player rankings.
There have been big turnouts for nearly every game of the season, be it Brabourne or at the DY Patil Stadium. With MI fighting for the title, one can expect another packed house. It’s going to be a heavyweight clash with some of the biggest stars in the game taking the field.
The long-awaited WPL 1 is set to get the grand final act it deserves.