Shweta Haranhalli
07 Mar 2023 | 11:38 AM

Winless Bangalore, Gujarat aim to get their campaign on track

The two sides endured a dismal start to the league and will be itching to make amends and get off the mark in the points table

"It's a pretty short tournament, and we can't dwell on it. In Franchise cricket, even after two losses, we can turn it around quickly," said Smriti Mandhana after a heart-wrenching loss to the Mumbai Indians a couple of nights ago at the Brabourne Stadium. 

And the southpaw has less than 36 hours to turn things around for the Royal Challengers Bangalore as they set foot yet again at the same venue against a bruised Gujarat Giants, who unfortunately have been undone by an injury to their skipper Beth Mooney and are languishing at the bottom of the points table. 

While the Challengers were battered in the first two outings and were well below par in all three facets of the game, the Giants produced a spirited performance in their second game against the UP Warriorz. 

Despite being agonisingly close to getting over the line, the Gujarat outfit were at the receiving end of one-of-a-kind innings from Grace Harris, who smashed an unbeaten 59 off 26 deliveries to pull off a heist. 

There ain't any doubt that both teams are full of international stars and young domestic talent who can turn the fortunes of their sides around in the competition. 

However, with stakes rocketing sky-high, all they need is for the players to own up to the responsibility of the side and get the team out of this rut in order to stay alive in this extravaganza. 

While the Bangalore skipper was confident of turning things around, a third loss for either side will not only dent their confidence but also shatter their hopes of making it to the top three spots with their dismal Net Run Rate. 

There is plenty to play for in this mid-week blockbuster, and without further ado, let's find out some of the key battles that can decide the outcome of this crucial encounter. 

Things to watch out for

Onus on overseas stars of both sides

One of the significant factors for both the teams struggling in this competition is the lack of performance from the foreign players that has led to the downfall of their respective sides. 

With Ash Gardner, Sophia Dunkley and Annabel Sutherland on one end and the likes of Ellyse Perry, Sophie Devine and Heather Knight at the other, there's no doubt that the teams have acquired the services of quality players. 

Rachael Haynes, the Head coach of the Giants, will be looking for a much-improved performance from Dunkley and Sutherland in the coming games, with the duo set to occupy crucial positions in the batting order. 

While the England opener has struggled for runs in the recently concluded World Cup in South Africa, amassing only 78 runs in five innings at an average of 15.59, Sutherland has been in and out of the playing XI for Australia and needs more game time. 

On the other side of the spectrum is a Challengers outfit will a wealth of experience and leadership in Knight, Perry and Devine. While they have been in decent form leading into the tournament, the team management will rely heavily on them in the coming matches to not only help the team get back to winning ways but also help Mandhana in the leadership role. 

Lack of power hitters in both camps

Over the years in the Indian Premier League, RCB have always been known to have a top-order heavy batting unit, and the composition of the Women's side is no different. 

With the likes of Mandhana, Devine, Perry and Knight, the team boasts a formidable top-order who has enthralled the fans over a number of years in international cricket. 

However, the Red army lacks another finisher down the order to complement Richa Ghosh at the death. In Kanika Ahuja and Shreyanka Patil, the team has unearthed batting stars, but the duo are not ready for the nuances and pressure of a high-voltage event. 

The same applies to Gujarat Giants as they are searching for someone to give the innings some much-needed impetus in the final overs. In the absence of Beth Mooney due to an injury, the Giants will hope for Ash Gardner to replicate her performances in the recently concluded T20 World Cup. 

The 25-year-old lends balance to the playing XI of the side and is the only player in the team who has the ability to strike the ball from the get-go. However, the right-handed batter will need some support from the order and skipper Sneh Rana to shoulder the responsibility of the inexperienced side. 

Pitch and conditions

The wicket at the Brabourne Stadium is known to be an absolute belter, and expect the two sides to display an array of strokes all around the ground in this clash. The average score in the first innings is around the 190-run mark, and the match will surely be a high-scoring affair. 

On any ground where the average run rate across the innings is around nine runs per over, the bowlers will have their task cut out, and the smaller dimensions of the stadium do not make it any easier. 

With the dew factor also set to play a significant role, the two captains will be looking to chase down the total as the wicket becomes much better in the second innings, and the ball comes nicely onto the bat. 

Tactical Nous

Smriti Mandhana vs Ash Gardner

The one rivalry that has the world of cricket talking about is that of Smriti Mandhana and Ash Gardner. In the 11 T20I innings, the off-spinner has dismissed Mandhana on four occasions, the joint-most by any bowler in international cricket. The southpaw has an average of 18.7 and a strike rate of 113.6 against Gardner, and it will not be a surprise if she takes the new ball along with Kim Garth. 

Gardner's struggle against off-spinners

The vital cog in the playing XI of the Giants, Mandhana would be eager to get the better of Ash Gardner early in the innings. The right-handed batter has struggled against off-spinners and has an average of 17.7 with 14 dismissals in 39 innings. Bangalore could opt to use the services of Heather Knight or Shreyanka Patil as soon as the Australian all-rounder walks out to the middle. 

Team Combination

If it was not for the exploits of Grace Harris in the backend of the run chase, the Giants would have managed to get over the line in their last outing against the UP Warriorz. With Sneh Rana at the helm, the all-rounder might feature an unchanged XI. 

Predicted XI: Sabbineni Meghana, Sophia Dunkley, Annabel Sutherland, Kim Garth, Ashleigh Gardner, Harleen Deol, Dayalan Hemalatha, Sneh Rana (Captain), Mansi Joshi, Sushma Verma, Tanuja Kanwer.

Despite the first two outings not going in their favour, expect the Challengers to stick to the same playing XI that played against the Mumbai Indians.

Predicted XI: Smriti Mandhana (Captain), Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Disha Kasat, Richa Ghosh (wk), Heather Knight, Kanika Ahuja, Megan Schutt, Shreyanka Patil, Preeti Bose, Renuka Thakur Singh.

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