Raf Nicholson & Syd Egan at Wokingham
On an increasingly drizzly Sunday at Wokingham Cricket Club, it was Berkshire who came out on top, to open up a big lead in Division 1 of the T20 Cup.
Berkshire v Kent [SE]
First up, a Berkshire side without Heather Knight, faced a Kent line-up which included Charlotte Edwards, Suzie Bates, Lydia Greenway and Tash Farrant. Berkshire were, however, bolstered by the debut of New Zealander Rachel Priest, who prior to the start of play received her cap from coach Aftab Habib.
Edwards and Bates opened the batting, and the gods initially appeared to be on Edwards’ side, as an edge off Daisy Gardner fell agonisingly short of Carla Rudd behind the stumps, and then a tame cut to point off the same bowler was put down by Alex Rogers.
The batsmen having been softened up by Gardner however, the double-breakthrough came from Linsey Smith, who bowled Edwards for 2 off 9 balls and had Bates caught at slip by Priest for 18 off 17.
Alice Davidson-Richards (26) and Lydia Greenway (16) then took Kent to 52-2 at the half-way mark; but what looked like a good platform somehow crumbled away as Berkshire continued to bowl tightly. Nevertheless, Kent’s final total of 95-8, though disappointing, looked like it might just have been enough.
Indeed, it very nearly was enough. Although a 2nd wicket stand of 56 between Rachel Priest (38) and Alex Rogers (20) looked to have put Berkshire firmly in charge, Kent dragged themselves back into the game with 3 quick wickets; and then kept the partnership between Lissy Macleod and Amanda Potgieter sufficiently in-check that it came down to the final ball, with Berkshire needing 2 to win.
A scampered single brought the scores level, but it was a reckless shy at the stumps which proved Kent’s undoing, as Macleod and Potgieter ran the overthrow to record a thrilling win by the narrowest of margins.
Kent v Lancashire [RN]
The second game of the day saw one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Women’s County T20 competition, as Lancashire – who have not won a Division 1 county game since 2006 – triumphed over Kent by 6 runs.
Lancashire started on the back foot as they lost both Emma Lamb (caught by Greenway at cover) and Lauren Smith (lbw for a first-ball duck) in the first over of the day, though Tash Farrant failed to achieve the hat-trick. However, they proceeded to add 44 for the third wicket as some loose bowling by Kent offered up easy pickings for Ellie Threlkeld (19) and Natalie Brown (23). While both were eventually dismissed by Megan Belt, a fiery 13* down the order from Rachel Dickinson, coming in at 9, helped them post a target of 91.
This did look eminently gettable as, in the absence of Charlotte Edwards, Suzie Bates and Farrant walked out to open for Kent. Indeed, at 44-0 in the 11th over, Kent were were cruising towards victory, albeit at the pace of a tandem rather than a Porsche. Yet a clever piece of glove work by Threlkeld – who realised swiftly that Farrant’s foot was on rather than behind the line – saw her stumped for 17 off the bowling of Natalie Brown (2-10). In Brown’s next over Bates also fell foul of a great piece of fielding, as Dickinson took a fantastic catch over her shoulder, running backwards from midwicket.
From there the wickets continued to tumble – none of Alice Davidson-Richards, Lydia Greenway, Lauren Griffiths and Charlotte Pape made it into double figures – and Kent were left needing 14 off the last over, which proved too big an ask.
Berkshire v Lancashire [SE]
So the final match was (by coincidence) itself to be a sort-of “final” between the day’s earlier winners.
With drizzle already beginning to fall, Berkshire won the toss, and might have looked to the weather, and to the advantages of batting second when shortened matches are decided by simple run rate, not Duckworth Lewis; but with the pitch deteriorating, they opted to bat first instead.
Berkshire found it heavy-going, as Lancashire’s spinners pegged them back early-on, and all of their top 5 fell for single-figures, leaving it to Linsey Smith (29* off 25) and Amanda Potgieter (12) to try to claw things back at the end, taking then to 91-6; with Sophie Ecclestone and Aussie Lauren* Smith the pick of the Lancashire bowlers, both taking 2-11.
The drizzle continued as Ellie Threlkeld and Emma Lamb walked out to begin the reply, with Berkshire also opening with spin from both ends, as Linsey Smith and Fi Morris took the ball. Morris had a hand in all of the first 4 wickets to fall: Threlkeld LBW, Smith skying a catch to Macleod at mid off, Brown caught at slip by Rachel Priest, and finally running out Emma Lamb, who had played very positively for 26 off 21 balls.
As the ball became increasingly soggy, so did Berkshire’s fielding, with catches going down and run outs going begging; but fortunately for the home side, it mattered not, as Rachel Hardy came on to clean up the tail with 3-3, as Lancashire were bowled out for just 55 off 16.1 overs.
Afterwards, Berkshire’s new overseas signing, New Zealander Rachel Priest, praised the Berkshire bowling attack, though admitted that her side could have improved in the field against Lancashire:
“Our bowling was great today. There were a few dropped chances [and] against a better side we’ll need to tidy that up a little bit.”
Priest, who is one of Western Storm’s overseas players in the inaugural Kia Super League, also said that she was happy to have the chance to acclimatise to English conditions before the competition begins next month:
“It was good to be out in those conditions and not just sitting at home [in the rain].”
“As many games as I can be available for, I’ll be back to Berkshire for those.”
* Play Cricket says “Dave” Smith… but we are fairly sure this isn’t her name 😉