Rachel Priest is – as Forrest Gump might have put it – like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get!
Her scores at the World Cup this summer read: 2 against South Africa, 8 against Australia, 8 against Pakistan, 12 against England, 5 against India. Oh…and 90 off 55 balls against the West Indies!
In this year’s Super League, her first two innings were 3 off 8 balls versus the Vipers, and a 4-ball duck against the Lightning.
Then came York: the Storm v the Diamonds.
With the Storm chasing 160, after what Women’s Cricket Blog described as an “iffy” start, Priest reached her 50 off 39 balls… and then she really got going! Finishing on 106*, the second 50 had taken just 25 balls. In total she hit 14 4s and 3 6s, including 15 off an over from Sophie Devine and another 15 off Chamari Atapattu.
In the Storm’s final group match, against the Thunder at Bristol, there was really no “start” at all – just a “finish”! After hitting 10 off the first over from Kate Cross, Priest went on to smash the fastest 50 in KSL history, off 22 balls, with 7 4s and 3 6s.
And so to Hove for Finals Day, with the Storm distinctly unfancied: our statistical analysis said they had only a 24% chance of lifting the title, and our followers on Twitter agreed – just 17% of them made the Storm favourites!
In the semi-final, with the Storm chasing a low total against the Stars, Priest got a bit of a start, hitting a couple of 4s, before horribly missing a fairly innocuous ball from Nat Sciver to be bowled for 11, as the Storm collapsed to 17-4.
Had everyone been right about the Storm?
No! It was Stafanie Taylor who kept them in it, guiding them home with an over to spare, with a patient 37 off 45 balls – Priest was to have one more chance to really make her mark, in the final against the Vipers.
At the half-way point in the final, however, the odds were stacked against the Storm once again. Although the Vipers highest individual score was just 31, a massive “team effort” had taken them to an imposing 145 – all-but 50% more than the Storm had just about managed to chase earlier in the day. There were men in white coats standing outside Ladbrokes on Portland Road, waiting to cart anyone betting on the Storm off to the loony bin!
Meanwhile in the press box, all the talk was of Charlotte Edwards, who had just hit 20* off 8 balls, with no 6s (Lottie does it “old school”) but 4 sweet 4s. If it was a secret that this was to be Edwards’ final game, it wasn’t a very well-kept one, and the fairy-tale ending was already being hotly anticipated and written-up for the morning’s papers.
But Rachel Priest had other ideas.
She hit her first 6 in Linsey Smith’s second over, but it was her brutal treatment of Smith’s third (and final) over which changed the course of the match. It began with a wide; before Smith seemed to pull it back with two dots. Then the damn broke – a 4, another wide, a no-ball hit for 4, the free hit sent for a soaring 6, then 2 more 4s – 26 off the over, and the Viper’s leading bowler quite literally battered out of the game.
By the time Rachel Priest was finally dismissed, brilliantly caught by Danni Wyatt, with a racing dive from deep midwicket to deep mid on, she had made 72 off 36 balls – a strike rate of exactly 200. There was still work to do – the required rate was just a little under 6 at that point – but it was as if Priest’s innings had lifted all the pressure off. Sophie Luff in particular looked a different player from the one who had made a nervous 5 off 6 balls in the semi-final – Priest had made batting look easy again, and Luff, Stafanie Taylor and Fran Wilson (running for Taylor, who was suffering from cramp) eased the Storm to victory with 12 balls to spare.
Charlotte Edwards – her fairy-tale ending denied – said afterwards that the Storm were simply the better team.
But Rachel Priest was.
She might be infuriatingly inconsistent; but on her day she can be the best player in the world.
And this was her day.
KSL career 50+ scores by nation:
12 NZ (Priest 5; Bates 4; 1 Satterthwaite; 1 Devine; 1 McGlasahan)
6 AUS (Perry 3; Villani 1; Blackwell 1; Mooney 1)
4 ENG (Knight 2; Winfield 1; Sciver 1)
4 SA (Lee 2; Du Preez 1; Van Niekerk 1)
2 WI (Taylor)
1 SL (Atapattu)
Priest’s 200 SR in the final was the joint highest for a 50+ score in the KSL. The other two were Sciver’s 90* (45) vs Storm at Bristol last year and Priest’s 52 (26) vs Thunder a Bristol this year. Her 26 ball half century was the 2nd fastest in the KSL, behind the 22 balls she took to reach fifty vs the Thunder.
The Storm’s final total of 151 was the highest score a KSL side has made against Southern Vipers. Previous best was 140 by Storm in both their fixtures last year.
Storm are the only side to have made more than one 150+ total batting 2nd in the KSL. They managed it twice in 2016 and twice in 2017. Loughborough Lightning (vs Thunder in 2016) are the only other side to have reached 150 in the 2nd innings of a KSL game.
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I think Storm played brilliantly in both matches and deserved to win on the day. They bowled very well against Stars and also well against Vipers, however Vipers didn’t field or bowl as well as we’ve seen them do on most occasions. Priest’s contributions in the crucial games for Storm have been massive.
It will be an important learning experience for Smith, too, as she was suffering a bit. She bowls quite fast darts at around 55mph and is actually quicker than Brindle a lot of the time. Maybe using the flight a bit more and slowing it down would be the answer and help her have more control. I can’t believe how good Storm are at chasing, it’s uncanny really, even given a lot of it has been due to Priest – other players, like Knight, Wilson, Taylor and Luff all stepped up at times during the season.
The somewhat low key performances from England players at this KSL was to be expected seeing what they’d given of themselves to pick up the WWC trophy, so many close games scraped through and a lot of mental fatigue. This did give an opportunity for others to show what they can do though, so we shouldn’t complain – a lot of Storm players like Davies, Luff, Hennessy and Nicholas to name a few, contributed well to the team’s ultimate win.
Overall it was a fantastic day’s cricket for an utterly bargain-basement price which they must think about putting up next year for the finals day, surely! The venue and crowd were terrific and really fitting end to the domestic season. Shame Lottie couldn’t finish on a high, although we did see a great little cameo from her, but I’m sure she’ll have lots more to contribute with Hampshire going forward.
Gutted to have had to track via twitter, sounds like a great end to the comp.
I still would prefer to see the top 4 fight it out on finals day.
With the Ashes to come hopefully momentum continues into the bigger tournament next season.