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WPL-2024 Final: An epic battle between RCB and DC for the WPL crown

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In the Women’s Premier League Cricket, Royal Challengers Bangalore will play against Delhi Capitals in the final at Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Sunday.

On Friday, RCB defeated defending champions Mumbai Indians by five runs. Opting to bat first, Royal Challengers Bangalore posted 135 runs for the loss of six wickets in the stipulated 20 overs. Mumbai Indians failed to achieve the target and managed to score only 130 runs for 6 wickets in 20 overs.

Delhi Capitals have won six of the eight games in the tournament while Royal Challengers could win only four games.

And then there were two: the home team and the team that’s seen unbridled support like every venue is their home. Meg Lanning knows Royal Challengers Bangalore will have sizeable representation in Delhi’s sold-out Feroze Shah Kotla when they clash in the WPL 2024 final. Smriti Mandhana is cognizant of the fact that it’s a borrowed fanbase, and that her team will have to earn their dues come Sunday (March 17).

Delhi Capitals are direct finalists for the second year running with a point to prove. Lanning isn’t exactly used to losing trophies, albeit also yet to win one in the franchise cricket circuit. Despite being the most consistent performers, they ended up as silver-medalists in 2023 to Hamranpreet Kaur’s Mumbai Indians – an opponent RCB has seen off in the Eliminator this season.

DC have been rewarded for showing continuity and stability in their XI, making it to the finals with a game to spare despite two heart-breaking losses in the round-robin stages. On the opening night, they were at the receiving end of a nerveless S Sajana’s last-ball six that cost them two points in Bengaluru, and over in Delhi, they fluffed a well-set chase by the barest of margins to briefly give UP Warriorz a faint hope of sneaking in to the playoffs. But, just like last year,

DC’s last league game was reduced to a mere formality with bare minimum required to stamp the already established – a direct seat in the title showdown.The Capitals have been well served by an in-form opening pair that’s head and shoulders above their peers across the two seasons, a Jemimah Rodrigues 2.0, a smiling assassin with the new ball in Marizanne Kapp and an ultimate fighter in Jess Jonassen who has channelled the energies after a national setback to make a strong statement. If there’s only one area to nit-pick, it’s probably the underexposed lower-middle order. And RCB has shown two games in a row how big of a crack it can prove to be.

Big enough for them to sneak into their maiden final, at the expense of the defending champions. Credit where it’s due to the RCB spin troika of Shreyanka Patil, Sophie Molineux and Asha Sobhana for holding their nerve to collectively defend just 20 off 18 as Mumbai made a hash of the 135-run chase after losing their set captain in death overs. However, Ellyse Perry has probably had a bigger, all-round hand in digging the team out of the hole in two successive games, incidentally both against MI, and giving them the sniff.

While they haven’t really been as consistent on field as their final opponents, RCB have proven they can upset the apple cart on their day. After a dismal inaugural year, and after being nearly written off even before the start of this season, they have redeemed themselves with different contributors stepping up in clutch situations to help the team bounce back from every challenge thrown at them.

After a tough initiation to full-time leadership, Mandhana has also come back strongly to lead from the front, briefly grabbing the Orange Cap, and even with her inspired bowling changes. Her calmness has rubbed off on the team as well, as acknowledged by various people from the RCB camp. The final hurdle, though, will bring pressures unknown: an area where her counterpart may have an ever so slight edge despite labelling it a contest of evens.

The Capitals and RCB have both endured their contrasting journeys to this finale. The two franchises have previously only finished as bridesmaids even in the men’s equivalent. A new champion will be crowned on Sunday. Will it be the hosts or the crowd favourites; only time will tell.

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