U.S.-born, Britain-based Tara Norris set the tone early with a five-wicket haul and others including Australia captain Meg Lanning soon followed: Foreign players have starred in India’s long-awaited inaugural Women’s Premier League.
It was only Day 2 of the tournament when the Philadelphia-born Norris, the only player from an “Associate,” or non test-ranked, country in the league, became the first bowler in the WPL to take five wickets in an innings. She snared five wickets and conceded just 29 runs from four overs to help propel Delhi Capitals to victory.
Left-arm medium pacer Norris signed with Capitals at the bargain price of $12,000 after the Feb. 13 player auctions. It gave the Delhi team an advantage because Norris, being from an Associate country, isn’t subject to the selection restrictions that limit each starting 11 to four overseas players.
“I feel really proud to get picked and represent not just the United States, but all Associate nations,” Norris said.
The 24-year-old Norris had previously played franchise cricket in England in the women’s Super League and The Hundred. But she could now be signed for the Caribbean Premier League and the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia later this year.
At the other end of Capitals’ inaugural victory was Australian star Lanning, arguably the most celebrated women’s cricketer in the world. Delhi had signed her for $133,000 and the investment quickly paid off — Lanning smacked 72 runs off 43 deliveries in her first WPL outing against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
It was followed by innnings of 70 off 42 balls against UP Warriorz and 43 off 41 balls against Mumbai Indians. Overall, Lanning leads the league in scoring with 221 runs from five games. Her opening stands with young Indian batter Shafali Verman have had the most impact on the Capitals’ run of four wins in five games.
Mumbai, the five-time men’s Indian Premier League-winning franchise, is an early favorite to claim the inaugural women’s trophy as well. It is the only team with five straight wins and has confirmed its spot in the playoffs.
West Indies’ allrounder Hayley Matthews has been key to Mumbai’s unbeaten run. Her 168 runs at a strike-rate 140 at the top of the batting order, along with 10 wickets at an average of 10.50, makes her the most valuable player in the league. With bat and ball, she props up Indians and teammates Harmanpreet Kaur (180 runs) and Saika Ishaque (12 wickets).
The most surprising foreign import in the league so far has been Australian allrounder Grace Harris. In the opening game for UP Warriorz, she clubbed 59 runs off only 26 balls, with seven fours and three sixes against Gujarat Giants. She went to the crease with 84 needed off 48 balls and helped the Warriorz to victory.
More surprisingly, she was left out for the next game because of those tournament restrictions on the foreigners on the playing 11. That rule has hit Warriorz hard, with Harris only appearing in three games so far.
On Wednesday night, she scored 46 runs off 32 balls to rescue the Warriorz from a precarious 29-4 to a total of 135 runs against Royal Challengers Bangalore. She then took 1-28 to help reduce Bangalore to 14-2, but Bangalore rallied for its first victory.
Meanwhile, the race is on for the three knockout spots in the WPL. Mumbai (10 points) has already qualified, but Delhi (eight points) could still challenge for the top spot which guarantees direct entry into the March 26 final.
UP Warriorz (four points) have the lead over Bangalore and Giants (two points each) with a tight battle to come for the remaining eliminator spot against Mumbai or Delhi.