We are a week into the inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League, and the league matches are coming thick and fast for the five franchises.
It is hard to believe that the competition is almost nine games old, and it is fair to say that the first seven days of the tournament have enthralled the fans with some high-voltage cricket and displayed the talent of women's players across the global platform.
And we are all set for one of the most awaited clashes in the league as the UP Warriorz lock horns against the Mumbai Indians on Sunday, March 12 at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
From the moment the auction was done and dusted, and the squads were assembled, the Warriorz and Mumbai looked the most settled outfit and pretty much seemed to have all their bases covered.
And they have lived up to all the hype in the first three matches as the Harmanpreet-led outfit produced dominant performances to dismantle the opposition and register a hat-trick of wins.
While the Warriorz started the league with a well-fought win against the Gujarat Giants courtesy of a Grace Harris masterclass, they stuttered in the run chase against Delhi but bounced back in a commanding fashion against a lacklustre Bangalore-outfit to record an emphatic 10-wicket win to stamp their authority in the competition.
With two batting powerhouses with Alyssa Healy, Tahlia McGrath and Harris at one end, along with Hayley Matthews, Harmanpreet Kaur and Nat Sciver-Brunt at the other, it promises to be a high-scoring affair with raining boundaries and sixes at the Brabourne Stadium.
Things to watch out for
New look opening combination for Warriorz
One of the areas of concern for the UP Warriorz in the first two matches was the lack of opening partnerships, with Shweta Sehrawat struggling to replicate her heroics of the Under-19 World Cup in the tournament.
While the teenager does possess every single stroke in her arsenal and will be the player to watch out for in the future, the team management of the Warriorz have managed to give her some break at the top and want to ease her slowly into the nuances of top-flight cricket rather than throwing her into the deep end.
They opted for a new-look opening combination with Devika Vaidya striding out for the run chase along with the skipper against the Challengers at the same venue.
The move seemed to have worked wonders for the Warriorz, as the duo forged a crucial unbeaten 139-run stand to power the team to a thumping win and consolidate their position in the top three.
Another factor that seems to work in favour of the Warriorz is the left and right-handed combination at the top which not only unsettles the rhythm of the opposition but also helps the team counter match-ups really well in the powerplay.
"Devika came into the top of the order and just showed her class. During the series we played against India, I thought what she was doing so low down the order," Healy said in the post-match presentation.
Well, the rest as they say, is history as this combination is there to stay and can well weave some incredible moments for the Warriorz in the upcoming games.
Stern test awaits Saika Ishaque
Seven days into the tournament and the Mumbai Indians have already unearthed a star in Saika Ishaque. The left-arm spinner from Bengal is the leading wicket-taker in the competition with nine wickets in three innings at an average of 5.5 and a strike rate of 6.7, including a four-wicket haul in the opening fixture against the Giants.
Read: Giant demolition scripts new chapter for Saika Ishaque
While the 27-year-old weaved her magic in the next two games, it will be challenging for her against a star-studded Warriorz batting unit that loves to play against left-arm spinners.
She will be up against the likes of Healy, Harris and McGrath, who not only thrive against the slow orthodox bowlers but also attack them and score maximum runs.
The skipper has an average of 38.4 against left-arm spin and strikes at 127.7, whereas Harris has been dismissed only once against the bowling type and averages 96 at a strike rate of 213.3.
And we are not done yet as the number one batter in the shortest format, McGrath averages 149 at a strike rate of 146.1 and has also been dismissed only once in the 102 balls she has faced against left-arm tweakers.
With the three Australian players set to form the core of the Warriorz batting unit, Saika will have her task cut out on a surface that is often known as a belter in India.
Pitch and conditions
The wicket at the Brabourne Stadium is conducive for strokeplay, and the batters are going to enjoy their time in the middle with shorter boundaries that give you value for your shots.
While the teams in the tournament have opted to bat first and put a total in excess of 190 in the first innings, the surface gets better to bat on in the second, with the dew factor also playing a considerable role in helping the ball come onto the bat nicely in the run chase.
Matthews struggles against back-of-length deliveries
The second leading run-scorer in the competition and a vital cog in the batting unit of the Mumbai Indians, Hayley Matthews, will hold the key in this clash.
The Windies skipper has scored 156 runs in three innings at an average of 78 and a strike rate of 156 to power the team over the line in the three games.
However, if there is one chink in her armour heading into this clash, it will be her dismal record against the back-of-length deliveries pitched 8 meters and beyond.
The right-handed batter has been dismissed four times in 24 deliveries on that length in T20Is and averages only 8.7, making her an ideal candidate for someone like Tahlia McGrath to target with a barrage of short-of-length deliveries.
Healy vs leg spinners
The star of Warriorz run chase against the Challengers, Healy will yet again be the trump card for her side at the top of the order, especially in the powerplay.
The right-handed batter smashed an unbeaten 96 off 47 deliveries, studded with 18 boundaries and one massive six to help the team get back to winning ways after a stutter against the Capitals.
While the 32-year-old was sublime in her strokeplay and attacked the opposition bowlers from the get-go, Smriti Mandhana and the team missed a trick by not having a leg spinner in the squad.
In T20Is this year, Healy has an average of 15 against leg spinners and strikes at 68.2, by far the lowest for her against a bowling type. As a result, Harmanpreet Kaur can opt to use the services of Amelia Kerr early on in the powerplay.
UP Warriorz have the luxury of five overseas players who can fit into the playing XI of any side. However, with Healy, Ecclestone and McGrath as the three confirmed picks, the toss up will always be Grace Harris and Shabnim Ismail.
Expect them to continue with Harris as they would need impetus in the back end of the innings on a high-scoring surface.
Predicted XI: Alyssa Healy (Captain & wk), Shweta Sehrawat, Kiran Navgire, Tahlia McGrath, Deepti Sharma, Grace Harris, Devika Vaidya, Simran Shaikh, Sophie Ecclestone, Anjali Sarvani, Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
Mumbai have pretty much been dominant in all three facets of the game, and barring any last-minute injuries, they would be fielding an unchanged XI.
Predicted XI: Hayley Matthews, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Nat Sciver-Brunt, Harmanpreet Kaur (Captain), Amelia Kerr, Pooja Vastrakar, Issy Wong, Amanjot Kaur, Humaira Kazi, Jintimani Kalita, Saika Ishaque.