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‘Ee sala cup namdu’: How Smriti Mandhana’s RCB spun their way to a historic title in Delhi

The tweakers grabbed nine wickets among them while Ellyse Perry steered her team past Delhi’s 113 with an unbeaten 35 and eight wickets to spare

When the powerplay of Delhi Capitals innings was done, the scoreboard read 61/0. It was a whirlwind. The competition’s best partnership – Meg Lanning and Shafali Verma – were off to a flier. Especially the Indian youngster, who was once again showing off her ball-striking ability, stable base with all the focus down the ground. The ball was flying off her bat. She had reached 42 off 21 balls, Lanning was doing her part, playing the second fiddle as she tends to.

Then came Sophie Molineux’s 8th over at the end of which 64/0 became 65/3. In the space of four balls – that aptly read out W-0-W-W – the Aussie left-arm spinner dismissed Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Alice Capsey. Three of DC’s most destructive batters, all gone in a hurry. It was the over that changed the direction of the match decisively.

Royal Challengers Bangalore spun their way to a win, ending a long wait for a fanbase that has made their voice heard loud and clear from south to north. DC could just manage 113 batting first, RCB took their time but eventually got there with three balls to spare, with Richa Ghosh hitting the winning runs, and fittingly, Ellyse Perry remaining unbeaten on 35.

With Lanning and Marizanne Kapp still around, DC hoped for a fighting total. Given that 130-odd was defended a couple of nights ago at the venue, DC could hope. Shreyanka Patil, then, stepped up to the plate. In her second over, for the second consecutive match against Delhi, the RCB spinner got rid of Lanning. It was a blow from which DC never recovered.

WPL Final: Shreyanka Patil vs DCNew Delhi: RCB’s Shreyanka Patil bowls during the WPL-T20 final cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, in New Delhi, Sunday, March 17, 2024. (PTI Photo/Atul Yadav)

Easy chase for RCB

The chase of 114 always felt like a matter of when and not if, and that was because RCB’s spinners brought their A-Game once again. When RCB pulled off a heist against Mumbai Indians in the semifinal, it was Shreyanka Patil, Sophie Molineux and Asha Sobhana who bowled the three crunch overs in the end. Those three would go on to share 9 wickets between them in a match-winning display of slow bowling.

Molineux, player of the final, felt like a shrewd addition to the franchise during the auction as she plugged a problem area for the team from last year: a wicket-taking spin bowler. This was despite Molineux not having been in action for Australia in international white-ball cricket since 2021.

But Shreyanka recalled a chat with Ellyse Perry during India’s home season against Australia. “When I played against Australia, Pez came up and told me that ‘Soph is going to be amazing. You’re going to learn a lot of stuff from her’. When I saw her, it was just amazing to watch her bowl in the nets. And then when she turned out, big match player, amazing to watch her,” Shreyanka said on Sunday.

The left-arm spinner’s first breakthrough was to have Shafali caught out at deep midwicket. Then Rodrigues and Capsey were bowled playing variants of the sweep shot. Molineux wouldn’t stop there, as she came up with a direct hit later to run Radha Yadav out.

Shreyanka’s four-wicket haul started off with Lanning’s LBW, this time with a classical offspinner’s dismissal, and ended with cleaning up the tail. Asha too chipped in with two big wickets in the middle overs as DC tried in vain to break the shackles. The job was nearly done.

RCB’s season turned out to be a rollercoaster, with an impressive start and then a blip in Delhi that included a last-over heartbreak against DC. After that match, head coach Luke Williams would say in the dressing room that he was confident the team’s best match was still in front of them.

Mandhana, RCB’s first-title winning captain echoed that. “Our Bangalore leg was really good. We had two tough losses here. And then that is what we talked about. The last league match was like a quarterfinal for us, then a semifinal and now the final. In such tournaments, you have to peak at the right time, so we saved our best for the last.”

Through the matches in Bengaluru and Delhi, RCB’s matches witnessed near full-houses. Mandhana was obviously aware of the expectations but tried to play it down every chance she got. “The only goal was to not talk about the goal,” she’d say after the Eliminator. “Focus on what was happening now and not on the 15 years gone by with the men’s side, we’re not really correlating anything that’s happened with the men,” she’d say before the Final.

But before going on to collect the trophy, she’d sign off in style. “I have a message for all the RCB fans, the most loyal fanbase. Nothing would have been possible without their support. Ee Sala Cup Namde (‘this year the cup will be ours’ in Kannada) always comes up when speaking about RCB. Now I just want to say Ee Sala Cup Namdu (this year the cup is ours).”

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