On a muggy day at The Ageas Bowl in Southampton, in front of a crowd of 1,700, the Stars won the toss and elected to bat against the Vipers, as the only two unbeaten sides in the tournament went head-to-head, with direct qualification for the final potentially at stake.
Lizelle Lee got the Stars off to a racing start, hitting 19 of the 21 runs that came off the first two overs – Tammy Beaumont hardly got a look-in before she was the victim of a fine catch on the deep midwicket boundary by Danni Wyatt, leaping up to save the six and dismiss her England colleague for a duck.
The carnage continued, as Lee hit 13 off a Hayley Matthews over. She was dropped by Georgia Adams at long off on 28 off Linsey Smith, and then raced on to 40 before she was finally caught by Suzie Bates at cover off Tash Farrant – at that point Stars were on 47 in the 5th over, with only a single run having come off a bat other than Lee’s.
Lee’s dismissal finally stemmed the bleeding, with the run rate slowing considerably in the post-powerplay overs. Nat Sciver ran herself out for 14, taking on the arm of Hayley Matthews at mid off and losing out to a direct hit; Bryony Smith holed-out to Bates for 5 off 10 balls; and Sophia Dunkley became another run-out victim after calling for a suicidal single that Marizanne Kapp was having none of.
Kapp herself meanwhile played steadily, picking up the pace after a watchful start, eventually caught behind by Carla Rudd for 42 from 48 balls.
Laura Marsh was cleaned-up by Matthews in the penultimate over for 4 off 8; and with Kirstie White another run-out victim in the final over, the Stars ended up perhaps 10-15 short of where they might have hoped to have been after such a cracking start – 127-8 off the 20.
The Stars opened the bowling with Laura Marsh and Marizanne Kapp, who kept Suzie Bates and Hayley Matthews in check for the opening 4 overs. Nat Sciver then brought herself on and saw her first two balls smacked for consecutive 4s by Bates – the over eventually going for 15, to put the Vipers right back on track.
The Vipers finished the powerplay at 35, where the Stars had been at 56, with the required rate a shade over 6.5, but with no wickets down. That soon changed however when Hayley Matthews made the mistake of trying to get after Alex Hartley, horribly slicing a lofted drive to Bryony Smith at point.
The return of Laura Marsh at the Pavilion End brought 2 further quick wickets – Mignon du Preez, in her first at-bat since the World Cup, made just 2 before she was stumped by Tammy Beaumont, and Danni Wyatt was soon following her back to the dugout, bowled for a duck, as 35-0 became 41-3.
With Bates still at the crease there was always hope for the Vipers, as she was joined by Arran Brindle, who made 19 in a partnership of 37 before being given out LBW to Nat Sciver.
Then came the duck parade – Georgia Adams was run out for nought, guilty of just not running hard enough after being called for a quick single; Charlotte Edwards, playing her first “pro” innings since WBBL, was bowled by Sciver for another quacker; and then Carla Rudd became the third duck in a row – LBW also to Sciver.
With the rain coming down hard, Suzie Bates and Tash Farrant took 16 from an Alex Hartley over, taking Bates to 50; but when the umpires finally called the players off in the 17th over, the Vipers were still 4 behind on Duckworth Lewis at 100-7.
And that was how it stayed – the Stars winning by 4 runs on D/L when play was abandoned, to put themselves at the top of the table on 3 wins out of 3 and well on course for Finals Day.
Speaking afterwards, the Stars’ Marizanne Kapp told CRICKETher:
“We are pleased with the win – it would have been a bit close at the end there, but we held our nerve. Any win, we’ll take it, and hopefully we can keep the momentum going into the next two games and they’ll go our way and we’ll go straight into the final.”
Comparing this season to last, when the Stars failed to qualify for Finals Day, she explained:
“Last year we didn’t know each other – it is difficult, especially if you only have five games and you have to fire from game one. Last year we didn’t start too well; but this year we know the girls, we know the role each player plays and I think that is what ultimately is working for us.”