Big picture: A WPL final befitting the hype
Long before the Women's Premier League opener got underway, there were winding queues outside the DY Patil Stadium in Nerul, Navi Mumbai. Many in the crowd wore the Mumbai Indians' blue jerseys from the past years.
Few teams in franchise cricket command crowd support like Mumbai. And quite aptly, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led has made it to the title-clash, even if they had to take the scenic route. Mumbai began the WPL on a high with five wins in five games before losing two matches on the trot. That blip was enough to rob them of direct entry to the final.
Mumbai's charge with the bat has been led by Nat Sciver-Brunt and Hayley Matthews. When surfaces have been flat, Matthews has cashed in; and even when they have taken turn, she has looked in little trouble thanks to playing on similar surfaces at home back in West Indies. She has also chipped in regularly with her offspin and has 13 wickets to show. Consistency from Harmanpreet has only helped matters.
Mumbai have used a set top four - in Matthews, Yastika Bhatia, Sciver-Brunt and Harmanpreet - which is the least number of players used by any team for these spots. The 984 runs they've scored is comfortably the highest out of all teams in this WPL with Delhi Capitals' top four a distant second with 838.
Any team with Meg Lanning, Shafali Verma, Alice Capsey, Jemimah Rodrigues and Marizanne Kapp poses serious threat. But having gained a direct entry to the final, Capitals have had a longish break heading into Sunday. All that said, the inaugural WPL couldn't have hoped for a better final. It will feature two teams known for their batting might but who fight every inch with the ball. Expect another run-fest at Brabourne.
Delhi Capitals WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Mumbai Indians WWLLW
In the spotlight: Meg Lanning and Amelia Kerr
Meg Lanning has not just led Capitals with aplomb but in the process, also ensured that runs continue to flow from her bat at the top of the order. She began the WPL with a couple of half-centuries and has not looked back. That she has had a strike rate in excess of 140 despite not really going hammer and tongs has stood out. Lanning is no stranger to big finals and will be key on Sunday.
Allrounder Amelia Kerr has fit into the overseas puzzle quite seamlessly for Mumbai. She has owned the No. 5 spot and has had a couple of match-winning performances with the bat - a 45 not out in the opener and 29 off just 19 in the Eliminator. With the ball, Kerr has had a telling effect and has been wicketless in only three of her nine games.
Capitals did not use Poonam Yadav at all despite playing her in their last league game. They might consider leaving her out for USA's Tara Norris (teams can play five overseas players if one of them is from an Associate nation), Minnu Mani or Jasia Akhter.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Meg Lanning (capt), 2 Shafali Verma, 3 Jemimah Rodrigues, 4 Marizanne Kapp, 5 Alice Capsey, 6 Jess Jonassen, 7 Arundhati Reddy, 8 Shikha Pandey, 9 Taniya Bhatia (wk), 10 Radha Yadav, 11 Poonam Yadav/Minnu Mani
Harmanpreet seldom likes to change a side, especially when they are winning.
Mumbai Indians 1 Yastika Bhatia (wk), 2 Hayley Matthews, 3 Nat Sciver-Brunt, 4 Harmanpreet Kaur (capt), 5 Amelia Kerr, 6 Pooja Vastrakar, 7 Issy Wong, 8 Amanjot Kaur, 9 Humaira Kazi, 10 Jintimani Kalita, 11 Saika Ishaque
Pitch and conditions: Brabourne favours batters
The lowest score by a team batting first at Brabourne stadium is 138. Ten games have already been played here and the final will be the 11th. It is true that the pitches have tired up a touch - the overall economy rate of the bowlers has come down from 9.09 in the first five games (till March 12) at the venue to 8.07 for the last five (since March 14). But the batters have hit 42 sixes in the second half as compared to 34 in the first. The pace of run-scoring at Brabourne has tended to be a tad quicker than at DY Patil stadium.
Stats and trivia
Mumbai and Capitals have only ever faced each other at DY Patil stadium. In fact, both teams have only played three matches at Brabourne this entire season.
Capitals have posted the highest total at Brabourne in the WPL - 223 for 2 against Royal Challengers Bangalore
"Batting with her has been great fun. She has got a unique style which works for her. She takes the game on and turns it in our favour. Hopefully she comes in with a clear mind and is ready to take the game on and I can watch from the other end."
Delhi Capitals captain Meg Lanning on her opening partner Shafali Verma
"We have a lot of experience from overseas players, who have led their teams and have done well. Our local players have enough experience of domestic cricket. The team combination allows you to express yourself than thinking about too many things."
Mumbai Indians captain Harmanpreet Kaur spells out the secret behind her consistency in the WPL