Amazing Grace Harris leads UP Warriorz into WPL playoffs

Grace Harris and Tahlia McGrath survey the field during their stand BCCI

UP Warriorz 181 for 7 (Harris 72, McGrath 57, Garth 2-29) beat Gujarat Giants 178 for 6 (Gardner 60, Hemalatha 57, Chopra 2-29, Gayakwad 2-39) by 3 wickets

Just like the first Gujarat Giants vs UP Warriorz game, this one went down to the penultimate ball too, and just like then, Grace Harris played the match-defining hand. The end result was a three-wicket win for Warriorz, which put them in the WPL playoffs. It also meant the end of the road for Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first season of the WPL.

Last time around, Harris had struck an unbeaten 26-ball 59 to take Warriorz to victory. She got out in the penultimate over here after scoring 72 off 41 balls, but it was seven from seven at that stage. By then, she and Tahlia McGrath, who scored 57 while putting on a 78-run stand with Harris, had done most of the work.

The final over had it all - desperate dives, a run-out, and then the clever hit for the winning runs. Sneh Rana, the Giants captain, had the ball, but in front of her was the calm Sophie Ecclestone, whose bat had ended Mumbai Indians' winning streak in their previous game. Simran Shaikh was run-out off the fourth ball, but with two needed off two, Ecclestone walked across her stumps and paddled Rana to the vacant fine-leg region for four.

It could have all been different for Rana, and Giants, though, had she run Harris out backing up at the non-striker's end in the ninth over. Harris was on 11 then, and Rana stopped in her bowling stride and appeared to give the non-striker a verbal warning.

For Giants, meanwhile, it was an end to a campaign that started with the controversy over Deandra Dottin, included losing their captain Beth Mooney to injury, and just two wins in all.

They had reached a respectable 178 for 6, riding on an excellent 93-run partnership between D Hemalatha (57 in 33 balls) and Ashleigh Gardner (60 in 39). Sophia Dunkley and Laura Wolvaardt went big at the top too.

That pushed them to 41 after four overs, but Alyssa Healy was rotating her bowlers around, and brought back Anjali Sarvani in the fifth over. The left-arm seamer Sarvani castled Wolvaardt first ball, and in the very next over Rajeshwari Gayakwad struck twice, sending back Dunkley and Harleen Deol.

That's when Hemalatha and Gardner got together and dug in. Hemalatha was the early aggressor, getting to her fifty off 30 balls with some clean hitting. Gardner got to her own half-century off 35 balls too, and Giants were on course for a big score.

But Parshavi Chopra, all of 16, made the difference. She broke the stand when she got Hemalatha caught at the boundary, and, in her next over, a beautifully flighted legspinner deceived the advancing Gardner for a stumping dismissal.

Still, with 178 on the board, Giants had a chance. They needed a huge win to have a chance of staying in the tournament but the target had given themselves a shot. It got even better for them when Warriorz were 39 for 3 in the fifth over.

Given Warriorz's line-up, the game hinged on the partnership between McGrath and Harris, and the two Australians stood up to the challenge magnificently. They couldn't finish the job, but did enough.

UPW Women 2nd innings Partnerships

1st14AJ HealyDP Vaidya
2nd5DP VaidyaKP Navgire
3rd20TM McGrathDP Vaidya
4th78GM HarrisTM McGrath
5th13GM HarrisDB Sharma
6th42GM HarrisS Ecclestone
7th5S EcclestoneSimran Shaikh
8th4S EcclestoneK Anjali Sarvani