Shafali Verma slammed an unbeaten 48-ball knock of 89 to power India C to the T20 Challenger Trophy title. The 15-year-old batter from Haryana, who has turned heads with her batting feats since early 2019, made light work of India B’s total of 131, polishing off the chase with 28 balls to spare.
Tanuja Kanwar, who dismissed Shafali the only time the opener had a quiet outing in matches between these two sides, was handpicked for preferential treatment. In only two overs, Kanwar conceded 28 runs and was not required to bowl further. This came after experienced India cricketers Shikha Pandey and Anuja Patil found little from the Cuttack surface to sow any seeds of doubts in a batter eager to hit through the line and over the infield.
In all Shafali hit 15 fours and two sixes, striking her runs at a staggering 185.42. Her early statement of intent in the chase meant Madhuri Mehta’s slow start (20 off 30) and eventual run-out had little bearing on where the game was headed. Veda Krishnamurthy walked in at one-drop and hit three boundaries in an eight-ball innings before falling for 15. By then, however, India C needed only 20 more runs to complete the victory.
That Shafali came within 11 runs of scoring a century was down to an equally destructive, in style if not in volume, knock from India B’s Pooja Vastrakar. India B, who were unbeaten in the series heading into the final, were undone on the wrong day by the law of averages. For just a day earlier they’d beaten India C rather comfortably in a dead-rubber league game. Here in the finale, their powerhouse batting unit with the likes of Smriti Madhana and Jemimah Rodrigues imploded and reduced them to 79 for 6 in the 16th over with Manali Dakshini picking up 3 for 16.
Vastrakar brought oomph to a stuttering innings, while serving another reminder of her all-round potential. She hit three fours and as many sixes, batting out 22 balls for a rapid 43. That late assault meant India B had a total worthy of beating India C for the third time in the tournament, if they could build early pressure in the defence. Shafali simply ensured there was no room for any ifs.
Brief scores: India B 131/6 in 20 overs (Pooja Vastrakar 43*; Manali Dakshini 3-15) lost to India C 135/2 in 15.2 overs (Shafali Verma 89*) by eight wickets.
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