NAVI MUMBAI: Not many would have known much about Kanika Ahuja, but the 20-year-old from Patiala would have earned plenty of fans in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Chasing 139 at the DY Patil Stadium against UP Warriorz, Royal Challengers Bangalore looked in danger of sliding to their sixth defeat in 6 games when they were precariously placed at 60 for 4 in 9 overs. However, emerging as a ‘surprise savior’ for her team, Ahuja joined forces with explosive ‘keeper-batter Richa Ghosh (31 not out, 32b,3×4, 1×6) for a 60-run partnership for the fifth wicket in 46 balls that helped RCB to a much-needed win and pocket their first points in the WPL. The franchise had lost five games in a row.
The five-wicket win kept their slender hopes of making it to the playoff game alive, even though RCB still must win their remaining games and hope for other results to fall in their favour. For now, though, they would be celebrating their first win and the success of their ‘youth brigade. ‘ That Ghosh allowed another talented RCB youngster, Shreyanka Patil, to score the winning runs after smashing Deepti Sharma for a six and a four in the 18th over, says a lot about the camaraderie and will of the team to allow the youth to blossom.
Launching the chase with 4,6,4 in the first over, Sophie Devine, who earlier took 2-23 in 4 overs, smote Grace Harris to Tahlia McGrath at deep mid-wicket. Things got worse for RCB when their out-of-form captain Smriti Mandhana was dismissed for a duck in the second over when she was bowled while trying to slog-sweep Deepti Sharma. It marked another time when the classy left-hander, who has just 88 runs in six games in WPL, was out to an off-spinner. RCB lost Elysse Perry (10) and Heather Knight (24) too, but Ahuja and Ghosh made sure they suffered no more hiccups.
Earlier, clearly fired up after a ‘pep talk’ by their men’s team talisman Virat Kohli before this match, a much-improved RCB, with almost nothing to lose from here, rolled over UP Warriorz for 135 in 19. 3 overs. Electing to field, they reduced UPW to 5 for 3 in 2 overs, and then 31 for 5 in the 9th over, before a terrific 69-run partnership in just 44 balls for the sixth wicket between Grace Harris (46, 32b, 5×4, 2×6) and India allrounder Deepti Sharma (22, 19b, 4×4) took them to 100.
However, RCB roared back into the contest through an inspired three-wicket burst by their ‘MVP,’ Elysse Perry (3-16 in 4 overs), taking UPW’s last five wickets for merely 35 runs in the final 26 balls. It robbed them of all momentum.