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Clutch Sciver-Brunt does it again

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Last updated on 24 Mar 2023 | 07:44 PM
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Clutch Sciver-Brunt does it again

On a night when it mattered the most, the all-rounder produced a scintillating performance to ace yet another pressure game

"We catch Sciver on six, and the game could have been ours."

Alyssa Healy minced no words in the post-match presentation as she summed up the day for the UP Warriorz and the impact of a brutal 72* from Nat Sciver-Brunt in the eliminator of the Women's Premier League. 

If only...

Hindsight is such a wonderful thing, and you bet Healy to know the damage the all-rounder can do that could potentially change the outcome of the game. 

On 3rd April 2022, the cricketing world were in absolute awe of the brutal display of hitting by the Australian wicket-keeper in the summit clash of the ODI World Cup in New Zealand. 

Records tumbled at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch as Healy smashed 170 off 138 deliveries to power Australia to 356 runs against arch-rivals England. 

The final of a world event, two teams on the cusp of rewriting history books, and as cliché as it may sound, the pressure of the run chase. 

How will England get out of this muddle? 

Not many reckoned England had any chance, to be fair.

However, Nat Sciver-Brunt had other ideas. 

The right-handed batter walked it at 38 for the loss of two wickets in the seventh over and smashed an unbeaten 148 off 121 deliveries to keep England in the hunt for the win. 

While England fell short of the target, Healy and Meg Lanning knew they were up against an exceptional talent in Sciver-Brunt. 

"Nat Sciver is an incredible player," stated the Aussie skipper, and her understudy echoed the same thoughts. 

"We knew we had put a pretty good total on the board, but with their lineup, they were peaking at the right time," revealed Healy on the plans in the huddle before they stepped onto the field in the second innings. 

*****

A lot has changed for the 30-year-old after playing one of the most defining knocks of her career in a losing cause. The last 12 months have been a challenge for the right-hander would be an understatement as she single-handedly carried the burden of ensuring the England flag is flying sky-high amidst the chaos. 

The chaos of not making it to the final of the inaugural edition of the Commonwealth Games at home and the jitters surrounding the performance started making the noises. 

With emotions bottling up and the pressure of an elite sportsperson taking a toll, Sciver-Brunt decided to step away from the game before the home series against India to rejuvenate and come back stronger for the national side. 

"I've played a lot of cricket over the last nine months, and I am emotionally fatigued. I need to take some time away from cricket in order to focus on myself," stated the press release from the England Cricket Board.

*****

Three months away from the sport, she made a rousing return to international cricket with a player of the series performance in an away series against West Indies in December. 

While there were question marks revolving around Sciver's participation in the series and the T20 World Cup to follow, the all-rounder put everything to rest with a roaring comeback. 

The puzzles were finally falling in place for Heather Knight's outfit, and they entered the T20 World Cup in South Africa as one of the favourites. 

There ain't any doubt that England crumbled under pressure in the run chase against South Africa and crashed out of the competition. However, the right-handed batter was the only silver lining for the side, with 216 runs in five innings at an average of 72 and a strike rate of 141.2. 

The joy of playing cricket again and doing something you love was rekindled for Sciver-Brunt, and Lanning could attest for the same.

Despite the heartbreak, she landed on Indian shores with the new responsibility of guiding the Mumbai Indians in the inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League. 

Along with skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and Hayley Matthews, Sciver-Brunt formed the core of Mumbai's batting unit. The one where if she has an off day, the team will struggle to get over the line. 

In the two league matches against the Delhi Capitals and the UP Warriorz, she was dismissed for single-digit scores, and Mumbai were comprehensively defeated.

With five wins to kickstart the tournament, most people expected Mumbai to top the ladder in the points table, but a couple of lukewarm performances from the Tokyo-born player and they found themselves in the eliminator fighting for survival. 

All eyes were yet again on Mumbai's famed batting unit and the England all-rounder as Healy won the toss and asked Mumbai to bat first in Navi Mumbai. 

A ground where teams chasing have won the last seven games and batting under lights becomes a lot more conducive. 

How will Mumbai overcome this hurdle and who would stand tall amidst the storm was the biggest question. 

With Yastika Bhatia giving the team a brisk start, Mumbai were up and running early in the powerplay. However, the southpaw was dismissed in the fifth over, bringing Sciver-Brunt to the middle at number three. 

A couple of nudges to the leg side to get her innings going, she was determined to score big in this high-pressure game. However, a lapse in concentration on the final delivery of the powerplay resulted in her lobbing the fuller-length delivery of Rajeshwari Gayakwad straight into the hands of Sophie Ecclestone at mid-off.  

A tumble to her right and the left-arm spinner failed to hold onto the catch. 

Has she dropped the game?

How much will the Warriorz pay for this massive reprieve?

Thoughts rallied around the Warriorz fans, especially Healy, who has been at the receiving end of Sciver-Brunt's magic donning the Australian jersey. 

The England all-rounder ensured the Warriorz never really recovered from the massive slip-up and displayed an array of strokes all around the ground to smash a brutal half-century off 26 deliveries and lay a solid foundation for the Mumbai outfit in the first innings. 

While her power-hitting down the order was the highlight through the 38-ball 72-run blitz, her ability to understand the situation and take the attack to the opposition bowling unit early in the innings has been a revelation. 

"It was very enjoyable bating out there, surprised myself with a few shots actually," said Nat at the post-match presentation. 

In this tournament, the right-handed batter has scored at a strike rate of 117.1 in the first ten deliveries of her innings and upped the ante in the next 20 deliveries with a strike rate of 120.49 and 134.91 to guide the team to a massive first-innings total or help them inch closer to the target. 

And tonight was no different. 

Despite losing Yasika early, Sciver-Brunt continued to attack the famous spin-bowling unit of the Warriorz in the middle overs and at the back end of the innings to power the team to 182 runs in the first innings. 

Mumbai lost wickets at regular intervals, but amidst the flurry of dismissals was a calm head battling it out for her team in yet another pressure game. 

Nerves of steel.

Along with Amelia Kerr, she ensured Mumbai smash 66 runs in the last five overs to give much-needed impetus in the back end of the innings. 

And she was not done yet, as she returned with the ball to scalp the prized wicket of Grace Harris to break the Warriorz run chase. While Issy Wong's hat-trick most definitely deserved to grab the attention, Wong herself credited this monumental victory to Nat. 

"Nat deserves it, she really held the innings together, she batted well and helped us to a big score, so she probably deserves it," Issy Wong applauded her fellow country-mate's performance. 

With history beckoning the two finalists and the heartbreaks for Sciver-Brunt in the coveted tournaments in the last 12 months, can Mumbai carry their hero over the finish line?

Well, only time will tell if all stories have a fairytale ending, but for now, it is time to enjoy and revel in the brilliance of Natalie Sciver-Brunt. 

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