Mumbai Indians 159 for 1 (Matthews 77*, Sciver-Brunt 55*) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 155 (Ghosh 28, Matthews 3-28, Ishaque 2-26) by 9 wickets
With a stellar all-round show at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, Matthews gave everybody, not least the noisy stand next to the sightscreen at the commentators’ box end, a polite reminder of the brilliance she can conjure up. One that continues to give West Indies hope as they look to rise from a lowish phase.
Royal Challengers were done in almost single-handedly by Matthews. After an 11-run opening over, in which Smriti Mandhana and Sophie Devine hit a four and a six respectively, she came back in the last over of the powerplay to dismiss Mandhana. She tossed one up outside off, enticing Mandhana to give her the charge before the dip and turn meant that the batter sliced it to point. On the very next ball, she slipped in a full one that went under Heather Knight’s flick to dismiss her for a first-ball duck.
Matthews had helped Mumbai win the first bit of the arm-wrestle against Royal Challengers.
“Looking at match-ups, we figured that today was one that really suited me well,” Matthews said after her player-of-the-match outing. “After that first over I was a bit under the pump. But [captain Harmanpreet Kaur] had faith in me to toss the ball back at me and it worked out very well.”
Matthews dashed any semblance of those hopes. She used the width provided by Renuka Singh to steer one past point in the opening over before flicking one through square leg in the third. She then heaved left-arm spinner Preeti Bose over deep square leg before going back to a half-tracker and punching it over covers.
Megan Schutt, who earlier scored a 14-ball 20, was next in Matthews’ firing line. Matthews first punched one through the covers before timing the straight drive past the bowler as Mumbai cruised to 54 for 1 at the end of the powerplay, with Bose trapping Bhatia for the only wicket in the phase.
Even after the fielding restrictions were lifted, Matthews hit Renuka for two fours in an over and eventually brought up her half-century – after narrowly missing out in the opening encounter – off just 26 balls with Mumbai on 95 for 1 at the ten-over mark. Nat Sciver-Brunt’s canter was reduced to a postscript.
Thereon, Mumbai knocked off the remaining 61 runs in 26 balls to register a second thumping win. Matthews was walking back with a huge smile and an unbeaten 77 off just 38 balls with Nat contributing 55 not out off 29.
In her last 11 T20I innings, Matthews crossed the 30-run mark six times and made a fifty-plus score in only one of those. While she admitted to thinking about this when she was in her thirties and forties, she also said that being the responsible batter for West Indies helped her tone down her aggression when needed and become a better T20 player.
“Funnily enough, when I got into the 40s, I was thinking that in my last ten to twenty innings I have had about seven 30s and 40s,” she said. “I sadly wasn’t able to get past the mark in more than one game. For me it comes down to concentration thing sometimes. I told myself to stay focused and it worked out.
“Probably being a bit more responsible at the crease is something I had to pull on a lot more with WI and I think that’s naturally helped me in my T20 game as a whole and it has helped me here as well. Probably [I] wasn’t getting the amount of runs I would have wanted in the past due to probably giving away my hand quite a bit. Now that I am being forced with responsibility at the international level is helped me realise how to plan my T20 innings.”
After those exploits, only two words explain Matthews finding no picks in the first round of the WPL auction – “auction dynamics”.
Opting to bat, Royal Challengers were off to a perfect start. Mandhana slapped Matthews for four through covers before Devine launched the slog sweep deep into the midwicket stands. Mandhana was picking up lengths early and heaved Sciver-Brunt through midwicket. Issy Wong’s first over then saw Mandhana pick three fours – one through covers, one via an edge through the vacant slip region and one through mid-on.
Bengal’s left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque turned the tables to apply the brakes. Devine hit her for a first-ball four in Ishaque’s first over and repeated the drill in her second over, too. Ishaque then slowed it down and bowled it on the stumps, once again having Devine play the slog. However, she did that straight to the fielder at deep midwicket.
A couple of balls later, Disha Kasat looked to charge down and push the ball down the ground, only for her to be beaten and be bowled. In a space of three balls, 27-year-old Ishaque had managed to stall Royal Challengers’ flying start and made the sparse Brabourne crowd seem humongous with its roar.
The seeds of trouble were sown.
S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo