Recent Match Report – GG Women vs DC Women 14th Match 2022/23

Gujarat giants 147 for 4 (Wolvaardt 57, Gardner 51*) tel Capitals of Delhi 136 (Kapp 36, Garth 2-18, Gardner 2-19) by 11 runs

Ashleigh Gardner doesn’t get stuck easily. She calls herself a “huge confidence player”. Like most Australians in the WPL, she has been world champion several times and tends to save her team from situations where normal teams usually lose. She was the Player of the Series at the T20 World Cup less than a month ago, and just before that, for India’s bilateral T20Is in December 2022.

On Thursday night at Brabourne Stadium, she walked in at number 4 as Gujarat Giants were in a precarious situation both in the game and in the league. They were already languishing at the bottom of the table after losing their last two games, but they crept around the half at 53 for 2 as their league top scorer, Harleen Deol, was just sacked. Opener Laura Wolvaardt struggled to speak fluently at 18 out of 20.

Gardner, an ace finisher for Australia, came in and operated on a whole other level. She hit five fours in her first 16 balls and gave a similar message to Wolvaardt: “If the ball is near you, go for it.” It was as if Gardner had flipped a switch in her partner’s game.

In T20 leagues, where there are always some weak links in the bowling, most batters forego the gun bowlers and focus on the others. Gardner’s confidence was so great that she and Wolvaardt went after Capitals’ most fiery and cunning bowlers, Marizanne Kapp and Jess Jonassen. When Kapp bowled over the 15th, Gardner chipped the second ball over the bowler’s head for four and three balls later Wolvaardt charged down to break a pull for another four. Wolvaardt then took on Jonassen on his own; a six-over long-off, two more pulls for fours into the space of three balls to make it a 15-run over.

With 26 runs from two overs, the Giants’ scoring percentage skyrocketed from under six to nearly seven per over.

“We kept talking about building a partnership together because that’s what we haven’t done in the last couple of games, we’ve lost wickets in bunches and we haven’t had those partnerships,” Gardner said at the press conference. “I told her, ‘If the ball is in your area, go for it’. We know what her strengths are, she hits offside so well. She has some balls that she can throw her hands at. I think it was the Jess Jonassen who ended up going for 15 and I think that was the momentum switch we needed.

Wolvaardt reached her fifty from 41 balls in the next over and soon Gardner raced from 31 from 25 to a 33-ball half century with back-to-back fours by karting Arundhati Reddy around, before chasing Jonassen for two more fours to hit nearly 150. “Pressure affects people differently,” she said. “Fortunately I’ve played under high pressure in a lot of situations so I feel like I can stay pretty calm personally and hopefully I can transfer that to other people as well. So it’s really being calm in those situations and really calm with my language and also to other players to make sure they stay really positive because the game wasn’t over until it was over.

Giants knew they were underpowered on a pitch that was somewhat slow but hit-friendly. Halfway back into the dugout, Gardner called her teammates together and gave them a clear message: be brave.

“I just said ‘147 is a good score but we’ll have to bowl well’. And we probably would have to bowl them to win that match. I was just trying to reiterate the message to the girls about being brave and playing with freedom , because at the end of the day we had to win these games and it was almost like we could play with freedom and just stand behind each other in the field but more importantly we just enjoy it at times like this they go so fast and if you don’t win you forget the fun side of it and that’s why we all play cricket because we love it and because we have fun playing with our friends and that’s the most important thing.”

And a courageous combined effort it turned out to be. Uncapped left arm spinner Tanuja Kanwar played cat and mouse with Shafali Verma to knock her leg stump three balls over after being hit for a six. As the spinners were sent to bounds, Captain Sneh Rana bravely deflected the final power play and sent a flat throw down at 89mph to trap Meg Lanning for 18.

When Capitals needed 70 for 60, Deol bravely threw one up to see Jonassen hollow out to long range, and when Gardner came in for her third, she smartly slowed the ball, at 82.8km/h, to beat Taniya Bhatia beat who swung over the line and beat her stumps.

“It’s being able to hit my natural lengths and being brave enough to slow my pace down a bit,” Gardner said of her bowling on Thursday, “because as spinners you get hit and there’s no point in going 95 mph/ bowling you, because it’s about going even further. So it’s just about being very brave and I think we were very brave with the bowling attack tonight.”

Aside from some nervous moments in the tense chase as Gujarat’s fielders started to fumble and leak overthrows, they also walked out two big hitters. Sophia Dunkley fired into a throw from cover to the wicket-keeper while there was a confusion between Alice Capsey and Jemimah Rodrigues, and the former fell short. The biggest blow came in the 14th when Kapp took off for a risky single and WPL debutant Ashwani Kumari took down the stumps with a direct hit to send Kapp back for 36 of 29 and help Giants take a big step towards their victory.

In the end, Capitals came up short, but they may have learned a lesson from their opponents when under pressure: be brave.

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo


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