What a riveting game we witnessed at the Brabourne Stadium as Sophie Devine unleashed her array of strokes to dismantle Gujarat Giants and complete the highest run chase of the tournament to keep Royal Challengers Bangalore alive in the competition.
48 hours after this carnage that stunned the Giants and their supporters, they are back on the field battling for survival in the tournament against a formidable UP Warriorz outfit led by one of the most astute captains in the women's game, Alyssa Healy. The Warriorz will set foot at the venue riding high on confidence after beating table-toppers Mumbai Indians by five wickets to showcase their class and inch closer to securing their place in the top three of the points table.
The UP outfit ought to win only one of their remaining two clashes to seal their place in the knockout stages of the extravaganza and will be aiming to continue their winning momentum and weave their magic against the Giants in an afternoon encounter on March 20.
The last time these two sides locked horns in the tournament, Grace Harris smashed an unbeaten 59 off 26 deliveries to pull off a heist and power the Warriorz over the line by three wickets.
With stakes soaring sky-high, here are some of the critical factors that could decide the outcome of this clash.
Things to watch out for
Warriorz opening woes
One of the most significant factors resulting in the inconsistent performance of UP Warriorz has been the lack of opening partnerships, with Devika Vaidya and Shweta Sehrawat struggling to find their groove in the tournament. While the Under-19 star failed to create any impact, Vaidya too has blown hot and cold in the four matches she has walked out with Healy to open the innings.
The duo thrashed the Challengers by ten wickets in their first game as a new-look combination, with the southpaw scoring an unbeaten 36 off 31 deliveries. However, in the following three matches, she managed to register scores of 6,0 and 1, adding an enormous amount of pressure on Healy and the middle order to follow.
The 25-year-old has been around the domestic circuit for over a decade and opened the batting on numerous occasions for Maharashtra in the shortest format.
With only 43 runs in four innings at an average of 14.3, the left-hander has the second-worst average among openers who have played a minimum of three innings and will be itching to make amends at the business end of the tournament.
Should Harleen Deol continue to bat at three?
Sneh Rana-led outfit bolstered their batting with the inclusion of S Meghana in the playing XI in place of Mansi Joshi. With the Giants struggling with their batting and Mansi not contributing much with the ball, it was a step taken in the right direction.
However, they opted to use the services of Meghana at number three in place of Harleen Deol, who is the leading run scorer for the side with 198 runs in seven innings at an average of 33.
There ain't any doubt revolving around the ability of Meghana, but the Giants could consider sticking with Harleen at three and Ash Gardner at four, which will allow their top four players to face maximum overs and capitalise on the 120 deliveries.
Pitch and conditions
The complete inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League is played only at two venues, the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai and the Brabourne Stadium.
While the wickets at both venues started as a run-scoring affair, it has slowed down considerably due to constant wear and tear. The average first-innings score at the Brabourne Stadium is around the 160-run mark, and spinners will play a significant role in denting the opposition with wickets in the middle overs.
There is no sign of dew in Mumbai, and it will not be surprising if the captains win the toss and elect to put runs on the board.
Alyssa Healy's dismal record against left-arm spinners
If the Giants want to get over the line in this high-voltage clash, they need to get rid of the Warriorz skipper as early as possible. While there are no major chinks in the armour of the Australian batter, Sneh Rana could challenge her by using Tanuja Kanwar early in the innings.
In the five games, Healy has been dismissed by left-arm spinners twice and has an average of 18 against them, which can work in favour of the Giants, especially on the sluggish surface on offer in Mumbai.
Battle for supremacy: Gardner vs Deepti
It seldom happens in world cricket that a right-handed batter has a weakness against the off-spinners, but Ash Gardner's struggle against them has been well-known since her debut.
While it is surprising mainly because her style of play involves penetrating the deep mid-wicket and long-on region, the ball coming into her hitting zone will be the ideal one for her to take advantage of and score maximum runs.
However, the 25-year-old has a dismal record against off-spinners, with 14 dismissals at an average of 17.4 against them in T20Is, the worst for her against a bowling type.
The right-handed batter has struggled to get going against Deepti Sharma and has been dismissed thrice in 11 innings, the most by a bowler in T20Is.
With the duo set to play a pivotal role for their respective franchise, the one that emerges on top in this mini-battle will help her side get over the line in this thrilling encounter.
Despite a thumping defeat against the Bangalore outfit, the Giants will be looking to stick with the same playing XI heading into this must-win clash.
Predicted XI: Sophia Dunkley, Laura Wolvaardt, Harleen Deol, Ashleigh Gardner, Dayalan Hemalatha, Sabbhineni Meghana, Sushma Verma (wk), Kim Garth, Sneh Rana (Captain), Tanuja Kanwar, Ashwani Kumari
The Warriorz will back their winning combination to do the job for them in their penultimate league game. Barring any last-minute injuries, they will most likely field an unchanged XI.
Predicted XI: Alyssa Healy (Captain and wk), Devika Vaidya, Tahlia McGrath, Kiran Navgire, Deepti Sharma, Simran Shaikh, Grace Harris, Sophie Ecclestone, Rajeshwari Gaikwad, Anjali Sarvani, Parshvi Chopra