New Zealand’s Suzie Bates put her World Cup disappointments behind her to hit 47 not out off 31 balls to lead the Southern Vipers to an opening-day bonus-point win against the Western Storm.
On a hot day at the Ageas Bowl in Hampshire, the Vipers won the toss and captain Charlotte Edwards elected to bowl, with her opposite number Heather Knight admitting the Storm would have done the same, with the pitch having sweated under the covers after several days of rain.
Opening the bowling, Tash Farrant, having played very little cricket during the World Cup hiatus, struggled a little bit with her line, but got slightly lucky when Rachel Priest flashed at a ball which would have been called for a second consecutive wide, but Priest got a thin edge and was well caught by Carla Rudd standing up to the stumps.
At the other end, Linsey Smith continued where she left off a year ago – bowling tidily and taking the wicket of Heather Knight with a classic Smith “Sucker Punch” – a ball which looked a good length to sweep but kept low, ducking under Knight’s bat to bowl her for 1.
Having faced dot after dot, Georgia Hennessy finally started to get going in the 9th over, hitting Aran Brindle for a 6 and two 4s. But Hennessy was out 2 balls later, and remarkably those were the only boundaries the Storm scored in their entire innings.
Fran Wilson (10) was the only other batsman to reach double-figures, as the Storm disintegrated – helped along their way by a some top-draw fielding – Charlotte Edwards taking the catch to dismiss Stafanie Taylor at mid off, before running out Sophie Luff for a 4-ball duck; and then Linsey Smith topping off her contribution with the ball with a fantastic direct hit to end Freya Davies’ late 7-run cameo, hitting the stumps from outside the ring at cover point, to bowl the Storm out for 70 – the 2nd-lowest total in the KSL’s (admittedly short!) history.
As Suzie Bates said afterwards:
“When you go out to bat after a start like that, you have a lot of confidence.”
It nearly didn’t happen for her, however, as Rachel Priest fluffed a straightforward stumping chance in the first over – fumbling the ball, giving Bates time to dive back into her crease and beat the 3rd umpire review by a whisker.
But the real gift however came from Holly Huddleston, who had one of those overs that will give her nightmares for years to come. After Hayley Matthews took a single off the second ball, Bates then proceeded to hit five 4s and a 6 as the Hudd Missile misfired for four no balls, going for 34 runs off the over – almost half the total the Vipers needed.
“It is never nice to see,” Bates admitted later. “The first two, to be honest, I was licking my lips at a free hit, but then you do start to feel for a player like that. Holly had a really good World Cup and she is an outstanding bowler so I feel for her – it is her first chance in one of these leagues and she’ll be really disappointed; but she is the type of character that will bounce back!”
Ironically, it was a Vipers player – Hayley Matthews – who then played probably the worst shot of the day. Trying to dink Stafanie Taylor over the top of midwicket, the ball ended up in the hands of Georgia Hennessy on the other side of the pitch at extra cover! But it was all academic by then anyway, as Bates and Georgia Adams played out the game, Bates finishing things off with a 6 for the win inside 10 overs!
Summing up, Bates concluded:
“That was a tough wicket – it was holding a little bit and fortunately we won the toss and it was a little bit drier when we batted.”
“I thought we were outstanding with the ball – that was our strength last year – we got off to a good start and we were able to contain them and take wickets.”
Meanwhile, the Storm’s Georgia Hennessy also admitted the toss played its part, but wasn’t making excuses:
“It was a good toss to win in T20 cricket; but we should have hit the ball the ball straighter and harder earlier on and backed ourselves.”
“It wasn’t our day with the bat or ball but we’ll have a break and go again.”
The big win gives the Vipers an extra bonus point for getting the runs at more than 1.25x the rate of their opponents, and has set down a marker that they mean business again this season.