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.