Contrary to what seems to be becoming popular opinion, we’re not convinced there’s anything wrong with a low-scoring pitch in women’s T20 cricket – they can generate just as exciting a game as the high-scoring thriller we saw yesterday at Bristol. If this wasn’t that – and no one could really call today a “thriller” – it wasn’t the pitch’s fault; but the fact that Diamonds proved what we all suspected pre-tournament – they’ve got a very long tail.
It doesn’t help that Diamonds’ two overseas batsmen – Alex Blackwell and Beth Mooney – have almost totally failed with the bat, with scores of 3, 23 and 6, and 0, 9 and 17 respectively. Given that Ellyse Perry has also been having problems over at Lightning – she looked completely un-Perry-like when we saw her last Wednesday – is there something wider going on, in terms of Australian players who have flown over to England in the middle of their off-season being unable to recalibrate themselves quickly enough?
Meanwhile Suzie Bates – who’s been in good form with bat and ball – has been over here adjusting to English conditions with Kent for the last couple of months. This competition is very short, and having overseas players who’ve already been playing county cricket seems to have been a bigger advantage than we’d perhaps anticipated.
Alongside Bates, it was Arran Brindle who dug the Vipers out of the not-insubstantial hole they had thrown themselves into at 19-4 in the 7th over, steadying the ship from the instant she arrived at the crease – exactly the role she played so successfully for England in the last few years of her career. It’s patently obvious that she’s still a class above – and exactly what England have been missing since her retirement in February 2014. Sadly, we probably won’t be seeing her in an international shirt again – she gave a pretty unequivocal “no” when I asked her about the possibility of a comeback after close of play – but that’s one reason why it’s so exciting to see her back out there in this competition, playing against the world’s best.
But there were two real stars of today – and Linsey Smith deserves all the plaudits that we hope are coming her way. A week ago when we saw her at Loughborough she was running a how-fast-can-you-bowl sideshow – now she’s running the entire show, with the best bowling figures (4-10) in the competition to date. When she came into the attack at 32-2, the game was still just about in Yorkshire’s grasp; it was Smith who took it away from them with some highly intelligent bowling: a wicket-maiden first-up, followed by removing the dangerous Blackwell in her third over with a brilliant head-high reflex catch that otherwise would have gone crashing to the boundary. Perhaps she might even get her own Vipers shirt now!
Lastly, a mention to Carla Rudd – 2 stumpings today, and impeccable work with the gloves. It obviously helps that she’s used to keeping to bowlers like Smith and Fi Morris at Berkshire, but she’s barely put a foot wrong in this competition, and if you’re looking at the reasons why the Vipers have become the first team to qualify for Finals Day, she’s got to be a factor.