MATCH REPORT: Stars v Thunder

Guest reporter James Piechowski was at Guildford yesterday to see Surrey Stars defeat Lancashire Thunder.

Result: Surrey Stars won by 7 wickets (with 28 balls remaining)

Going into this match, both sides had played 3 games, lost 2 and won only 1. The result from Monday’s game, with the Southern Vipers earning a bonus point win over Yorkshire Diamonds, meant that both sides playing yesterday had clear daylight between them and the bottom of the table. With Vipers essentially through, and Diamonds needing a miracle, four sides were effectively competing for 2 qualification spots. This match was basically an eliminator of sorts, as the losing side would be left relying on other results and a bonus point win in their final match to have any sort of chance.

Either Stars or Thunder getting through to finals day seemed unlikely, but they had hope to hold onto. In order to get into the top three, a minimum of 5 points would be required, even if Lightning or Storm lost both their remaining games. Realistically, six or or seven points may even be needed to qualify. That left both sides desperately needing a win to ensure their campaigns could continue on positively. In fact, the extra bonus point win would be preferable. It was, as the old adage goes, a “six-pointer” if ever there was one. With just one more game remaining for both sides after this, Thunder would be facing a wounded Diamonds side in a sure-to-be feisty Roses clash. Stars had a slight run rate advantage, and the added bonus of playing Lightning, a team they would need to overtake, last. Nothing could be guaranteed though. The points were there for the taking, but who could hold their nerve best?

The sun may have struggled to poke through the clouds over the Guildford ground at times, but this did not dampen the friendly carnival atmosphere, many spectators choosing to sit at the boundary’s edge to get close to the action. And the crowd of several hundred were certainly treated to an entertaining match.

Thunder got off to a bad start as West Indian opener Hayley Matthews was adjudged to be lbw to Marizanne Kapp, second ball of the innings. She offered some dissent to the umpire, indicating that she had hit the ball. In came Thunder captain Amy Satterthwaite and she would stay out in the middle until the end of the innings. It was the promising Emma Lamb who took the attack to Tahuhu in the next over though, using her feet well and punishing anything wide or over-pitched. Lamb has an attractive, dynamic batting style, and faces relatively few dot balls. She strikes regular boundaries, and also works the ball well into gaps for singles and twos. She is fast in running between the wickets. In the field too, Lamb impresses, being quick to the ball and secure in her handling. She was out yesterday though to a rather unnecessary slog at Kapp, having scored 27 off 17 balls. It was a rash shot, something that she can hopefully eliminate with more experience.

After 11 overs, Thunder were 66-2 with Satterthwaite and Laura Macleod going well. They would have been aiming for a total of at least 130. But Alex Hartley, in her second over, triggered a middle order collapse that saw 6 wickets fall for 17 runs in 5.4 overs. At the end of this flop, Thunder were 83-8 with just over 3 overs left, and looking at a total of just over 100. Hartley was the main difference yesterday. She has a boundless energy about her that she channels into her bowling to allow her to be accurate and difficult to hit cleanly. Her fielding is not always to the standard you’d expect, but her bowling is invariably excellent, and yesterday was no exception.

Credit should also be given to Kapp, whose accuracy meant that she was one of the only pace bowlers to not go the distance yesterday, finishing with 2-18. And Laura Marsh bowled so well in partnership with Hartley to restrict Thunder in that middle period, that Rene Farrell, a bowler usually called upon much earlier in the innings, was not given a bowl until the 17th over and thus could only complete 2 of her available 4. Stars certainly have a wealth of bowling options available. Yesterday they offered an improvement to an admittedly sloppy display in the field against Western Storm. The three run outs were well executed and hurt Thunder badly. The fielding was not perfect though. Hartley dropped a catch she should have taken 99 times out of a hundred, a dolly popped up off her own bowling, made all the more galling as it was Satterthwaite when she had just 10; and also Lea Tahuhu grounded a more difficult chance running in from the boundary.

Thunder did not help themselves with a few questionable decisions out in the middle. The batting order, with Macleod promoted above Deandra Dottin and Danni Wyatt, looked short of the power needed to set a challenging total. When Dottin and Wyatt did finally arrive at the crease, there was extra pressure after Macleod had used up 23 balls and only scored at a strike rate of 74. But they gave their wickets away somewhat timidly. Thunder had lost their nerve. The problem was that Satterthwaite, although a fine batsman, is more of an accumulator in style, and in the New Zealand team she has made her name playing in often relies on the likes of Bates, Devine et al to provide the punch. With Emma Lamb making the only fast cameo for Thunder yesterday, and the middle order collapse, Satterthwaite – not exactly at her fluent best – was left to rebuild the innings with little support. The total of 102-9 appeared to be about 30 runs short on a good track and fast outfield.

Thunder only hit 9 fours; in reply, Stars managed 16. In the end Satterthwaite tried her best in difficult circumstances, and did well to carry her bat, but only making 34* after arriving at the crease in the first over tells its own story. In the field for Thunder, I could not understand why the excellent Matthews was held back after bowling a cheap opening over until the 11th over; a combination of Kate Cross, Dottin and Satterthwaite being preferred instead. Of those bowlers, only Dottin looked like doing what Thunder would have needed to make things close.

The Stars reply was swift and telling. Tammy Beaumont offered another fine display, working the ball all around the wicket and striking boundaries with aplomb.

Bryony Smith is some prospect – more than just a pinch-hitter promoted from the middle-order. When she hits the ball, it stays hit; she is brutal when cutting outside off stump, and on the drive. She is not all about power though: a deft ramp shot over her shoulder which scooted to the rope for 4 showed she has finesse, too. By the time she was out in the 7th over, trying to hit Dottin for another leg side four but caught by Satterthwaite, Stars had already broken the back of the chase and Nat Sciver, Cordelia Griffith and Kapp continued the necessary impetus to see them over the line with the bonus point, with 4 balls to spare.

The result leaves Thunder only able to achieve a maximum of 5 points which is very unlikely to be enough to qualify, seeing as 3 teams already have that tally. For Stars, they face a key match away at Loughborough against Lightning, on Friday, which may well turn out to be another eliminator. This convincing win yesterday will give them confidence that they can put in the strong performance that will surely be required.