Mumbai Indians, the maximum team of the WPL

Mumbai Indians outclass slightly unlucky Delhi Capitals (6:55)

An enjoyable, nervy final brought the curtains down on the first ever WPL competition (6:55)

Shafali Verma or Issy Wong - who is the average cricket fan in Mumbai more familiar with? It's fair to assume the answer is Shafali.

So, when Shafali smashed Wong for a six and four in the second over of the WPL final at Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium, the cheer was loud. As expected.

But next ball, when Wong dismissed Shafali, the noise turned deafening. Not quite as expected.

Later in the evening, the same crowd was chanting Shafali's name when she fielded at the boundary. But cheering is different from choosing a side, and for the Mumbai Indians faithful, it was club over country throughout the WPL. And the loyal supporters were rewarded with Harmanpreet Kaur lifting the trophy, beating Meg Lanning's Delhi Capitals in a well-contested final.

Since the WPL was played in only one city, Mumbai, the already formidable team got an edge: a readymade, vocal, engaged fanbase that has spilt over from the IPL. And the Mumbai Indians team basked in it right from the start.

A lesser team could well have drowned in that ocean of blue, especially after seemingly losing steam at the business end of the league. They had to play an extra match - the Eliminator - against UP Warriorz, the team that had snapped their winning streak. But when it came down to it, Mumbai proved to be the clutch team that lifted themselves at the right time with the big guns firing.

In the final, it was the four overseas players who led the way: Wong (3 for 42), Hayley Matthews (3 for 5) and Amelia Kerr (2 for 18) with the ball, and Nat Sciver-Brunt (60 not out in 55 balls) with the bat, with Harmanpreet (37 in 39) and Kerr (14 not out in eight) for support.

Overall, three Mumbai players - Sciver-Brunt, Harmanpreet and Matthews - finished among the WPL's top five run-getters, with one more, Yastika Bhatia, among the 13 to cross the 200-run mark. With the ball, four of the top five wicket-takers were Mumbai bowlers: Matthews, Wong, Kerr and Saika Ishaque. Sciver-Brunt was just outside the top five.

Big guns, big results. Mumbai's men have known how it works for long. Now the women know too.


That final, in a way, was a summary of Mumbai's season: a dominant start, then a dip in intensity, and then a big comeback.

Wong got three wickets with three full-tosses to reduce Delhi to 38 for 3 in the powerplay. Matthews, the winner of the purple cap, and Kerr dusted off the rest on a track aiding spin. Amanjot Kaur, who has barely got a chance to bat or bowl but has shone on the field, chipped in with the crucial run-out of orange-cap-holder Lanning. That was the domination at the beginning.

At 79 for 9 with four overs to go, it looked like Capitals were down for the count. Till Shikha Pandey and Radha Yadav clobbered 52 runs off just 24 balls to put up a decent total. There was Mumbai's dip.

The dip continued as Mumbai had a slow start to their chase, with just 27 runs coming for the loss of both openers in the powerplay.

But then came the comeback, and a big one it was too.

Sciver-Brunt, the joint-most-expensive overseas player at the auction, had already justified her price tag before the final. Here, she finished the job. "I knew if I was there at the end, we'd be able to get over the line," she said afterwards - the confidence of a champion.

She ended the knockouts unbeaten, with 132 runs in two innings. She failed twice with the bat in the entir tournament. Mumbai lost both games.

In the final, Sciver-Brunt alternated between aggressive and restrained. She later credited Harmanpreet - they added 72 for the third wicket - for taking the pressure off her in the initial stages of their stand. It was true the other way too.

Harmanpreet, who lit up the opening night with a 30-ball 65, played slow and steady till she was run-out. In another setting, it might have been the one wicket the team wouldn't have wanted to lose. But this was Mumbai Indians. Sciver-Brunt was still there. Kerr was to follow. Harmanpreet now has her first major win over Lanning.

As Harmanpreet and Sciver-Brunt added 72 - they took their time, it was tough going - the noise from the stands dipped and rose. It was relatively quiet as the two batters took their time to get going. But the crowd found its voice nevertheless, with five rounds of an unprompted Mexican wave and cheers for Capitals' Shafali and Jemimah Rodrigues, who acknowledged the ovation.

When Harmanpreet fell in the 17th over, there was an actual cheer from some fans. Her 37 had consumed 39 balls, and it was getting tight. Plus, there was Kerr to come in. Kerr's cameo was crucial in the end, the back-to-back boundaries in the 19th over off Jess Jonassen crucial to the end result. It was just a matter of eight runs, but it added up in the end.


It all came together nicely for Mumbai in the end.

From splurging on Sciver-Brunt to getting Matthews at her base price after she initially went unsold. From going for domestic players who have been around for a while, like Ishaque, to being the only team to not have an Australian in their playing XI, Mumbai did things differently from the start. Perhaps the only thing that didn't work for them was the toss. Harmanpreet won only one out of ten - but that, too, points to Mumbai's class; they took the toss out of the equation.

"We were waiting for this moment for so many years… it feels like a dream, I think not only for me but for everyone here, even for the crowd," Harmanpreet said afterwards.

The dream has finally come true. And in good style, with the captain of the India team lifting a trophy in front of a packed stadium, full of enthusiastic and engaged people, in a match worthy of being a big-tournament final.