Mumbai Indians 162 for 8 (Harmanpreet 51, Yastika 44, Gardner 3-34) beat Gujarat Giants 107 for 9 (Harleen 22, Sciver-Brunt 3-21, Matthews 3-23, Kerr 2-18) by 55 runs
That’s when she sought out a sports psychologist to clear her mind and free herself up to be the fearless batter she was known to be, instead of playing with an inherent fear.
Twelve months later, Harmanpreet is raising the bar and revelling in the freedom she seems to have given herself. It’s also the kind of freedom that comes with knowing she leads a group of highly skilled match-winners at Mumbai Indians in the inaugural Women’s Premier League.
And Harmanpreet’s knock did just that. Even if it wasn’t quite the showstopper, it had enough punch to help deliver a fifth straight win that has guaranteed Mumbai a playoff berth. For the record, they’re the only unbeaten team even as the competition has veered past the halfway mark.
Her 51 off 30 balls had all the typical elements: the high backlift, the ferocious sweeps, deft touches and strong bottom hand. These helped her reel off seven fours and two sixes, both off Annabel Sutherland in the penultimate over.
The first was a powerful heave over square leg off a high full toss, and the second a fine concoction of wrist work and timing as she stood deep in her crease and converted a yorker-length delivery into a half-volley that she whipped over the ropes.
Before that, it was about her smarts. Harmanpreet peppered the very boundaries bowlers were dreading when they attempted to bowl wide outside off in an attempt to bowl outside her arc.
She was able to do so by standing on middle-stump and then shuffling across to get close to the line and let her instincts take over. Then when she had the bowlers second-guessing, she outfoxed them by dabbing or cutting similar deliveries behind square on the off side.
When in full flow, Harmanpreet can hit similar deliveries to different arcs. That’s pressure enough for the bowlers, even if they’re as skilled and experienced as Ashleigh Gardner, who in the final over found herself walloped to the leg-side boundary despite having three fielders patrolling the deep.
The second ball of the final over was full on middle-and-off which Harmanpreet slog-swept into the gap between wide long-on and deep midwicket. Anticipating another shuffle to play a similar shot, Gardner tossed it up wider, only to see the ball scythed over extra cover as Harmanpreet raised a 29-ball half-century in the final over of the innings. It was her second straight fifty-plus score and third overall in the season.
It helped Mumbai post 162, which seemed like 200 on a surface where their crafty spinners came into their own.
In winning, Mumbai also became the first team in the WPL to successfully defend a score under 200.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo