Let’s talk about the battle within the battle first. When the two captains will walk out for the toss, at the outset, it will be the first clash between the Women’s franchise of Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals. However, it will be tough not to think about the events of February 23, 2023, when yet again, India’s World Cup dreams were shattered by the mighty Australians.
Harmanpreet Kaur, the current India and Mumbai Indians skipper, has stood up multiple times against Meg Lanning’s Australia but has fallen short of resources to get past them. The WPL, however, evens out the playing field. In fact, both Mumbai and Lanning’s Delhi have been a shadow of each other in the way they have operated thus far in the brief journey of this tournament.
Both teams have been batting powerhouses. Delhi have batted at a run-rate of 10.85 in the season, losing only six wickets and notching up the 200-run total twice. Mumbai have mustered runs at 10.7 per over, losing six wickets. Both sides have seven bowling options, thanks to the presence of three overseas all-rounders. Both teams are also a bit thin on the batting front post number six. More importantly, none of these two sides have tasted defeat yet. It would be fair to say that none of them have been challenged in the season.
Hence, one can deem it a battle for supremacy. In a tournament where each team has eight league games, and the league topper will go straight to the final, it becomes quite a significant game. And Harman, with a team full of match-winners in their own right, has a great chance to go one-up on Lanning.
Things to watch out for
Batting powerhouses locking horns
Delhi and Mumbai came into the competition with the same glitch in their XI - lack of batting depth. But Mumbai as a venue has been a blessing for both teams. The true nature of the wickets has allowed the fiery top-order of both sides to flourish, thus superseding the issue of lack of batting depth.
Except Yastika Bhatia, all their other four prime batters - Hayley Matthews, Harmanpreet Kaur, Nat Sciver-Brunt & Amelia Kerr - have batted at a strike-rate of above 160. Matthews, the opener, has belted 124 runs striking at 180.
For Delhi, both openers - Meg Lanning and Shafali Verma - have scored over 100 runs while striking at over 165. Such has been their dominance, it has reduced the workload for the rest - Marizanne Kapp, Jemimah Rodrigues and Alice Capsey. This can well turn out to be a bane. Law of averages dictate their might be a failure for the opening pair soon and it will be interesting to see how the middle-order turns up in the absence of a well-laid platform from the openers.
Delhi’s combination is such that they are almost fielding an 8.5-player team. It sounds odd but Taniya Bhatia, the wicketkeeper, is a non-batting asset. She has played only seven times in international cricket with a sole half-century to her name. Hence, Jess Jonassen, who bats seven or below in international cricket has earned a promotion to number six for Delhi.
They have also underused Arundhati Reddy and Radha Yadav. Radha has bowled only three overs in these two games without an opportunity to bat. Meanwhile, Reddy, a specialist right-arm medium pacer, has delivered only one over, that too the last over against UP Warriorz when the game was well in the pocket. These are clear indications that the team might not be instilling their faith in the secondary or even the primary skillset of some of their personnel in the XI. That opens an opportunity to make a chance and sneak in Jasia Akhter, a ferocious hitter of the cricket ball in domestic circuit. She may also enjoy the batting surface at the venue.
Pitch and conditions
The conditions at the Dr. DY Patil Stadium are expected to remain similar - batting-friendly. The first innings scores in the three games here have been 211/4, 207/5 and 169/6 and we might see another big score in this game, especially when you factor in the batting potential of both sides.
On the bowling front, the pacers have enjoyed the conditions more than their spin counterparts. The biggest example is the mid-phase where pacers have bowled 42.3% of the overs but have snaffled 56.3% of the wickets.
> Jess Jonassen has a batting promotion in store if Delhi play their tactical cards right. The left-arm spinner, Saika Ishaque is the highest wicket-taker for Mumbai, averaging only 6.2 runs apiece for her six wickets as yet. Delhi don’t have a left-hander in their top seven, except Jonassen. Hence, she can be sent up the order to tackle the left-arm spinner. Jonassen thrashed an unbeaten 42 off 20 balls in the last game.
> In another unusual suggestion for Delhi, Alice Capsey could be a great option to neutralize the threat of Hayley Matthews. In Women’s T20s since 2022, Matthews averages only 17.5 at a strike-rate of 100 against off-spinners. Capsey could be handy against Matthews’ opening partner as well. First of all, Yastika Bhatia is a left-hander. And she averages only 5.5 against off-spinners in Women’s T20s since 2022, at a strike-rate of only 57.9.
Both teams can field an unchanged XI considering their winning spree. Delhi, as mentioned above, has a case to play Jasia Akhter. Given Arundhati Reddy’s minimal use as a bowling resource, she could be the one making way for Akhter.
Delhi Capitals (Probable XI): Meg Lanning ( c ), Shafali Verma, Marizanne Kapp, Jemimah Rodrigues, Alice Capsey, Jess Jonassen, Taniya Bhatiya (wk), Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy/Jasia Akhter, Radha Yadav, Tara Norris
Mumbai Indians (Probable XI): Hayley Matthews, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Nat Sciver-Brunt, Harmanpreet Kaur ( c ), Amelia Kerr, Amanjot Kaur, Pooja Vastrakar, Issy Wong, Saika Ishaque, Humaira Kazi, Jintimani Kalita