WPL 2023: Sophia, Harleen, Ashleigh shine in Gujarat Giants' first win of the tournament

WPL 2023: Sophia, Harleen, Ashleigh shine in Gujarat Giants' first win of the tournament
Fantastic fifties from Harleen Deol and Sophia Dunkley coupled with Ashleigh Gardner's three-fer propelled Gujarat Giants to 11-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore and their first win of WPL 2023 at the Brabourne Stadium, here on Wednesday.
Electing to bat first, Sophia set the tone for Gujarat's big total through a breath-taking 65 off 28 balls, including slamming fastest fifty of the tournament in 18 balls. In her blazing knock, she slammed 11 fours and three sixes at a strike rate of 232.14.
Once she fell, Harleen shined to ensure Gujarat didn't lose momentum. From being 18 off 17 at one point, she impressed everyone with her timing and placement to score 67 off 45 balls, hitting nine fours and a six at a strike-rate of 148.89.
For the third consecutive time in the competition, Bangalore's bowling was taken apart, barring Shreyanka Patil and Heather Knight taking four wickets while conceding 49 runs off six overs between them. Their fielding and catching wasn't up to the mark too.
With immense pressure of chasing 202, Sophie Devine came out all guns blazing, slamming eight fours and two sixes in her 45-ball knock while sharing a 54-run opening partnership with Smriti Mandhana and a promising stand of 43 runs with Ellyse Perry for the second wicket.
Heather Knight also landed some big blows to keep Bangalore in the hunt. But Gujarat taking five wickets after the half-way stage meant Bangalore ended up at 190/6 in 20 overs and are now rooted to the bottom of points table.
After playing eight consecutive dot balls, including a maiden in the opening over, Sophia got off the mark with a nice scoop over fine leg off Ellyse. She then went after Megan Schutt in the next over by hitting two boundaries.
Despite Megan taking out Sabbhineni Meghana in the third over, there was no stopping Sophia. She chipped and clipped off Renuka Singh Thakur for two boundaries, but the pick of the shots was a well-timed inside-out lofted six over extra cover.
Sophia went on to make full use of anything coming in the slot from Preeti Bose, smashing three fours and six, to reach her fifty in 18 balls and take 23 runs off the fifth over. The carnage continued as Sophia pulled off Ellyse for four, before slog-sweeping and whipping off Shreyanka Patil for six and four respectively.
Her knock came to an end when Shreyanka, coming from over the wicket, got the right-handed batter to mistime a loft to long-off. Harleen took over by getting some exquisite timing on her punch, sweep, pull and pick-up shots.
Bangalore continued to take wickets as Heather got Ashleigh to be stumped easily from behind by Richa Ghosh. Dayalan Hemalatha timed her two fours and six, before slicing to short third man off Heather.
But there was no stopping Harleen as she brought up her fifty in 35 balls with a pull over short fine leg off Ellyse, followed by pulling and slapping well to collect back-to-back boundaries. She even got a life when Preeti dropped her catch in the 17th over. But ran out of support from the other end as Annabel Sutherland holed out to long-off while Sneh Rana was run-out in the 19th over.
Harleen was finally out in the final over when a full ball from Shreyanka crashed into the stumps. A boundary down the ground from Sushma Verma on her first ball took Gujarat over 200.
In reply, Smriti got Bangalore's chase off to a solid start by hitting two boundaries off Tanuja Kanwer in the second over. Sophie joined the party by slashing and pulling off Kim Garth to collect back-to-back fours, with Smriti ending the over through her trademark cover drive.
Sophie upped the ante by pulling off Ashleigh for four while clipping, bringing a forehand smash and slap down the ground against Annabel for a hat-trick of boundaries in the fifth over.
Bangalore lost Smriti in the fifth over when she miscued a heave to mid-on off Ashleigh. Though they slowed down a little, Ellyse hit five delightful boundaries to give much-needed acceleration to Bangalore's chase.
Just when it looked like Ellyse would shift gears, Mansi Joshi took her out as the right-handed batter gave a simple catch to backward point. Though Richa stumps were left in a mess against Ashleigh, Sophie continued to march forward.
As Kim made a return to the bowling attack in the 13th over, Sophie took a brace of boundaries through mid-wicket and long-off, before getting her fifty in 36 balls. After slogging off Tanuja over deep mid-wicket, Sophie pulled off Annabel into the same region. But on the very next ball, she holed out to long-on.
Despite losing Sophie, Heather reverse-swept and chipped over cover off Ashleigh. She then tore into an erring Annabel, hitting a hat-trick of well-timed fours in the 17th over. From the other end, Kanika Ahuja took two boundaries off Sneh Rana, but was stumped off Ashleigh in the 19th over.
Annabel took out Poonam Khemnar on the first ball of the last over, and despite Shreyanka hitting a six and four respectively, she was able to defend 24 in the final over as Gujarat got off the mark in points table.
Brief Scores: Gujarat Giants 201/7 in 20 overs (Harleen Deol 67, Sophia Dunkley 65; Heather Knight 2/17, Shreyanka Patil 2/32) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 190/6 in 20 overs (Sophie Devine 66, Ellyse Perry 32; Ashleigh Gardner 3/32, Annabel Sutherland 2/56) by 11 runs.
Source: IANS