The first match of the inaugural Women’s Premier League T20 was a rather one-sided affair with Mumbai Indians, playing in their home ground, dominating Gujarat Giants in all three departments. After putting up a mammoth total of 207/5, on the back of Harmanpreet Kaur, Hayley Matthews and Amellia Kerr’s swashbuckling performances, the Mumbai bowlers matched the tone of their batting counterparts to dismantle Gujarat Giants in and out. They were bundled out for a paltry 64, allowing Mumbai to register themselves as the winners of the first-ever WPL match.
While the glorious Harmanpreet Kaur was the pick of the batters, a rather unknown commodity, Saika Ishaque led the bowling department to unleash carnage on the Gujarat line-up. Ishaque is a 27-year-old left-arm spinner from Bengal who started her formative years with the Kalighat Club Women. From there she rose up the ranks to represent the state team in both U-19 and U-23 tournaments. She has ever since been an integral part of the senior Bengal state squad, regularly featuring in the Senior Women’s ODI Championship. In 2021 and 2022, she represented India Women -D and India Women-A respectively and had a few cameos.
Not just her bowling, Ishaque also showed her batting skills in the match against India C on 24th December 2021, scoring a quick-gun unbeaten 24 with the help of 5 fours. In that entire tournament, she was dismissed just once, that too in the final where she got out for a golden duck. Coming back in 2022, she represented India A. She also got to represent the Trailblazers in the Women’s T20 Challenge series which gave her the opportunity to brush shoulders with the who’s who of international women’s cricket. Thus, before coming into today’s match against Gujarat Giants, she had a good amount of experience playing with the stars and therefore, never looked lost or nervous at any point during the game.
Ishaque claimed WPL’s first four-wicket haul
Playing in the inaugural match, Ishaque and her mates had the cushion of runs provided by the batters that allowed them to play fearless cricket, going aggressive without shying away from experimentation. Early into the game, Gujarat Giants had a major setback when skipper and key batter Beth Mooney twisted her ankle and had to be carried out of the field, thus rendering her uncertain for the upcoming matches as well.
Nat-Sciver Brunt and Issy Wong then let themselves loose on the Giants’ batters to bring the top order crumbling down. Giants had lost 3 early within the first four overs when Ishaque was introduced by skipper Harmanpreet Kaur. She soon struck as she disturbed the furniture of Annabel Sutherland to send her off at an individual score of 6. She continued her fiery spell and dismissed Georgia Wareham in her very next over, reducing Gujarat to 22/5.
She came back in the 13th over to break the longest partnership of the Gujarat innings between Dayaland Hemlata and Mansi Joshi, by trapping Joshi in front of the pads to reverse an on-field decision to bring the Giants down to 49/8. After such a brilliant spell where she claimed 3 wickets in exchange for just 11 runs, it was only befitting that Ishaque could get the chance to finish things off in style. That’s exactly what transpired as she clean-bowled Monica Patel to wrap up the Gujarat innings on the very first bowl of the 16th over itself.
Thus, a total of 143 runs separated the winners from the second-best team in the inaugural match of the much-anticipated tournament. While the batters definitely played their part to perfection, it was Saika Ishaque in the bowling department who ensured a quick downfall of the Giants.
It will be crucial for Ishaque and her team to keep this form going, in order to not let the Mumbai juggernaut come to a halt.
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