Western Storm’s Smriti Mandhana played a key role for the sixth match in a row, this time scoring 56 to lead a successful chase against Yorkshire Diamonds.
What a signing the 22-year-old Indian batter has been for Western Storm.
It was hardly a surprise that Storm, the 2016 runners-up and 2017 champions in the Women's Cricket Super League, secured Mandhana’s services for 2018, making her the first Indian to play the annual Twenty20 tournament.
After all, she has been one of India’s stars in recent times, No.4 in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s ODI Rankings for batters and No.13 in the corresponding list in T20I cricket.
But scores of 48, 37, 52*, 43*, 102 and 56 in her first six innings of the tournament, which have made her the big hero in a team boasting batters like Heather Knight, Stafanie Taylor and Rachel Priest, has exceeded expectations.
Mandhana’s latest big effort came against the Diamonds, who rode on Lauren Winfield’s 48 and Beth Mooney’s 69 to put up a solid 172/5. But with the Indian scoring 56 in 36 balls, with five fours and three sixes, and Priest (37) and Knight (45*) chipping in with useful contributions, it took Storm 19.2 overs to seal a seven-wicket win.
Just for a spot of perspective on how well Mandhana has done so far, here are some numbers:
Top-scorers in the three editions of the WSL
2016: Stafanie Taylor (Storm) – 289
2017: Rachel Priest (Storm) – 261
2018: Smriti Mandhana (Storm) – 338*
– Both Taylor and Priest played six innings apiece in 2016 and 2017 respectively
If Mandhana continues to go the way she has so far, she is quite likely to set the bar extremely high, which will take some doing on the part of the other batters to top, whether this season or later.
“The team is full of confidence at the moment. The way we’re going about our cricket is really pleasing. The top of the order is obviously going very well, Smriti in particular,” said Knight after the latest win.
“Smriti’s just effortless. She’s so pleasing on the eye, keeps it simple and hits it straight. Everything is going her way at the moment, even those ones that fall into gaps.”
Indeed, Mandhana is right on top of all the key batting stats in WSL 2018 at the moment too, and these are some incredible numbers as well.
Most runs: 338 (Diamonds’ Lauren Winfield is second with 181)
Highest average: 84.50
Highest strike rate: 183.69
Most 50-plus scores: 3 (Rachael Haynes of Loughborough Lightning and Amy Satterthwaite of Lancashire Thunder have two apiece)
Highest individual score: Mandhana’s 61-ball 102 against Thunder is the only century in WSL 2018 so far
Most fours and sixes: 34 fours (Winfield is next with 28) and 19 sixes (Lightning’s Sophie Devine has 16)
Storm are joint table-toppers at the moment with Loughborough Lightning, who have also won five of their six games – like Storm – and in line to make the knockouts.
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