In their previous KSL game, against the Diamonds, Southern Vipers fell agonisingly short in their run chase, reaching 163-9 after Diamonds had racked up 175-5. It was the highest ever aggregate score in a KSL match, but it was the Vipers who were on the wrong end of the result.
Today, with Loughborough Lightning needing 11 runs off the final over and Suzie Bates tasked with bowling it, you’d probably have had your money on Vipers to defend their substantial 172-run total. Nonetheless it was Lightning who triumphed, Elyse Villani’s six finishing things off with two balls to spare.
With just 1 win in their 6 opening matches, and Finals Day now all but out of reach*, some have questioned whether something has “gone wrong” for Vipers this season, and asked when they might start putting in the performances that would enable them to turn things around. In actuality, this is a side who have now put in two consecutive match-winning performances, but haven’t won either contest. T20 is a format of the game that can hang on the way the cards fall: and sometimes the luck just doesn’t go your way.
Today, after Sara McGlashan and Arran Brindle’s 71-run partnership ensured a strong finish to their innings, it definitely felt at the halfway stage that Vipers had their fangs into their opponents. Then, after Lightning had motored away to reach 100 in the 11th over with only 2 wickets down, it felt again that things had swung back in Vipers’ favour – Brindle making the crucial breakthrough to have the in-form batsman Rachael Haynes caught at point, just after reaching her half century.
But somebody at Vipers has clearly offended the cricketing gods. Two balls after the Haynes wicket Villani (who went on to reach 61*) was inches away from being run out; but survived by the skin of her teeth. Then, coming back to bowl her next over, Brindle was forced to leave the field one ball in after Georgia Elwiss pelted the ball straight back through her hands – Brindle dislocating a finger in her attempt to take the return catch. Finally, with Fi Morris beginning the following over, Tash Farrant dived to save a boundary at deep backward square and couldn’t get back up again. She eventually left the pitch with the help of medical staff, appearing to have dislocated her shoulder.
With 2 sub fielders brought on, Vipers were still in with a chance, especially while Lightning proceeded to throw away several more wickets – Elwiss run out; Georgia Adams and Jenny Gunn holing out and caught in the deep when singles would have sufficed – but Villani, fortunately for her team, kept a cool head.
And so Lightning continue what looks to be their inevitable charge towards Finals Day, in a performance that has surprised everyone. But maybe luck has played a role there as well? It was only two months ago that we found out that Ellyse Perry had dropped out of this year’s KSL. Her very-last-minute replacement? None other than the heroine of the hour, Elyse Villani…
*We think it is still mathematically possible for Vipers to reach Finals Day, but it would rely on several matches being rained off and all other results going their way.