At 64/0 in seven overs, Delhi Capitals had a dream start to their WPL 2024 final against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Shafali Verma was the main aggressor in the opening partnership, treating the crowd to delightful straight sixes, with Meg Lanning being the second fiddle. But from there, the script flipped as left-arm spinner Sophie Molineux made a triple strike in the eighth over and off-spinner Shreyanka Patil took four scalps to derail DC’s batting innings and pave the way for spinning RCB to their maiden WPL title. ‘Won All Our Hearts With the Campaign’, CSK Shares a Heartfelt Message for RCB’s Women’s Team After Successful WPL 2024 Triumph (View Post).

In a bid to clear longer boundary, Shafali slog-swept straight to deep mid-wicket to an around the wicket delivery from Sophie. The left-arm spinner then had a sweeping Jemimah Rodrigues castled via flight for a two-ball duck, and Alice Capsey was cleaned up while shaping up for a lap shot against a straighter delivery to fall for a golden duck.

WPL 2024 Final Stat Highlights

Three wickets fell in four balls of the eighth over as DC slipped from 64/0 to 65/3, as Sophie was later adjudged as Player of the Match in the final. In the auction last year, while on a mission to revamp their bowling attack, RCB roped in Sophie, who had just started to bowl after spending two years on the sidelines due to an ACL injury.

Many were skeptical on how she would fare in the WPL, but Sunday’s performance from her made RCB feel that the punt taken on her paid off when it mattered the most. "We've been following her for a very long time. I remember her bowling against us in the ODI series which we nearly won when we went to Australia (in 2021).” WPL 2024: Left Ourselves a Few Runs Short After a Fantastic Start, Admits Delhi Capitals Head Coach Jonathan Batty.

“I think she was the difference between the Australian team and the Indian team and, at that time, the way she bowled in the last four-five overs, it always stuck with me somehow - her performance. The last two years have been really tough on her with a few injuries."

"She went through ACL and I can feel that ACL pain (having gone through it myself), so really, really happy for her. The way she came back - she was really clear. Not only in the final, but even in the eliminator, to (bowl) that kind of a 19th over (four runs and a wicket against MI). So, really, really happy for her and I think she is definitely a special player," said RCB skipper Smriti Mandhana in the post-match press conference.

On the other hand, Shreyanka had a whirlwind 2023 – WPL breakout star, Emerging Women’s Asia Cup win, CPL stint and India white-ball debut. But WPL 2024 made one feel that the second season blues had hit her – Shreyanka took only two wickets in four matches. Add to that, she suffered a hairline fracture on her non-bowling hand, which kept her out of two games. But in Delhi, Shreyanka turned a corner, taking 11 wickets in four games, including her four-fers coming against DC, both in league stage and final.

Shreyanka got one to turn in sharply and trap Meg Lanning, who played all around it, lbw. She had Minnu Mani trapped lbw again, before knocking over Arundhati Reddy and finding a faint nick of Taniyaa Bhatia’s bat to have her caught behind. Smriti was glowing in praise of Shreyanka, who signed off as WPL 2024’s leading wicket-taker with 13 scalps and took home the Emerging Player award too.

"Shreyanka has been brilliant in the tournament, though the first three or four matches didn't go her way. I remember having a chat with her after she came off a really tough zonal tournament and she was really low about a few things.”

“I remember telling her after the South Zone-West Zone match that ‘On March 17th we were going to do something special’. Little did I know that it is going to happen and she will get the purple cap. But really happy for her as she has been a really hardworking person.”

“She was worked through all her niggles – ankle niggles and all – I don’t know what she’s done to herself in this tournament. But really happy for her as she has really worked hard as a kid and I feel she is the most complete player to come in the last two years in the circuit for international cricket as well. There’s not much work to be done on her, she feels she belongs to international cricket and this tournament has again been a stepping stone for her. Hopefully she continues doing that for India as well," she said.

The Sophie-Shreyanka show ensured that an Indian captain lifted the WPL trophy again, in the form of Smriti. Celebrations hit a crescendo when RCB finally got a title against its name for the first time across WPL and IPL. Before receiving the trophy, Smriti got a video call from RCB stalwart Virat Kohli and asked about what he said, she revealed about not hearing a word due to the noise behind her.

"I didn't hear anything he was saying because it was too loud (from behind in the stadium), he was like just thumbs up and I just did thumbs up, I will be meeting him.”

“He looked happy and there was a bright smile. I remember him coming last year and a little pep talk which really helped me personally as well as the whole team. He has been a part of this franchise and I think he has been there for the past 15 years so I could see that happiness on his face (on us winning WPL title), but because of the noise I couldn't hear him, maybe I will chat to him when we go to Bengaluru." Virat Kohli, Faf Du Plessis, Other Men's Stars Laud Royal Challengers Bangalore Women's Side Following WPL 2024 Title Win.

That RCB has a massive fan-base across cities is a but-obvious fact, but the support it got in Delhi after the near full-house it got in Bengaluru was incredible to say the least. On the way to the stadium, one barely saw a DC jersey as hawkers had only RCB jerseys for sale. Fans coming in large numbers largely spotted RCB jerseys, with DC’s blue making blink and miss appearances. Ahead of the presentation ceremony, many fans began shouting ‘Kohli, Kohli’ on their way out of the stadium.

In metro rides on the way to stadium and back home, fans would talk about their admiration for Kohli, the Delhi lad, as reason behind supporting RCB in WPL 2024, though there were some who were followers of Smriti, Ellyse Perry and could reel off names of almost all players in the women’s team.

The overwhelming support which RCB received in Delhi, a non-home city for them, was also noticed by Smriti. “As a franchise, RCB has been amazing. Few moments had made me really emotional – like how the fans were at Chinnaswamy Stadium (in first leg of WPL 2024). Even in the final, a few fans had DC flags in hand, but were still chanting RCB, which was considering we were playing against their home team.” Virat Kohli Fever Hits Delhi As Fans Chant ‘Kohli, Kohli’ After RCB Win WPL 2024 Title.

“It didn’t feel like we weren’t playing away, it was like an India-Australia game, where people were supporting India. Maybe RCB is that emotion, because last year in Mumbai, people were chanting ‘RCB, RCB’. It feels great and I am just happy that they have something to celebrate now.”

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Mar 18, 2024 03:10 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website