After a couple of near-misses, the Southern Vipers finally got things back on track with a win against the Yorkshire Diamonds in front of a big double-header crowd at The Ageas.
With opening bowlers Tash Farrant and Katie George both out for the rest of the season – Farrant after breaking her collarbone against the Lightning at the weekend and George with a persistent knee niggle – the Vipers handed a professional debut to 17-year-old Berkshire quick Lauren Bell; whilst at the other end of the order, the absence of Danni Wyatt for personal reasons meant Tammy Beaumont moved up to her preferred opening slot.
Beaumont made the most of her opportunity – hitting a Player of the Match-winning 64 off 37 balls – though she will be kicking herself that she got out tamely again, presenting Thea Brookes with catching practice as she failed to clear the ring.
The dismissal of Suzie Bates had already slowed down the run-rate, from 11 at the end of the powerplay to 8 at the half-way mark, and after Beaumont’s dismissal the Vipers engine was beginning to stutter; but they somehow rode the clutch just enough to avoid a total breakdown, leaving wickets in hand for a thrash in the last couple of overs.
And thrash they did – Paige Scholfield, playing in considerable pain with a broken finger, hitting 22 off 10 balls, including consecutive sixes off Katie Levick in the final over, to leave the Diamonds needing 160 on a ground which isn’t always that easy to bat on.
As Suzie Bates reflected afterwards:
“There was a point in that game where it could have gone either way, but those two sixes were massive for us – to get that score up to 160 was probably the winning of the game.”
The total still had to be defended though, and it was up to a slightly make-shift bowling unit to step up, with Lauren Bell opening the bowling on her debut.
“Lauren Bell may not have got an opportunity had Tash Farrant and Katie George remained fit,” Bates admitted post-match.
“Sometimes you have a player like that and you maybe protect them a little bit, but today we had no choice – she was our front-line seamer – we had to open the bowling with her and she responded.”
Bell got hit for 11 off her opening over, as Beth Mooney looked to attack; but she later came back for a two-over spell which went for just 6 runs and was crucial in pushing the Diamonds’ required rate up towards double-figures. She might have finished wicketless, but she also closed her account with an overall economy rate of just 5.66 – bettered on the day only by Amelia Kerr.
Afterwards, Bell admitted the first over hadn’t gone entirely to plan:
“I hadn’t practiced loads against lefties and I was thinking ‘Don’t bowl too straight!’ but I’ll learn from it, and I think I came back strong so I’ll take it.”
“In the second two overs I went full and went for yorkers – I wasn’t thinking to bowl as quick as I could – just getting my lengths right.”
With the Diamonds chasing runs, Suzie Bates was able to clean up the tail and celebrate bowling the Yorkies out to claim the win.
“The last two games we’ve been in positions to win and haven’t been able to do it, so it’s just so pleasing!” Bates said afterwards.
As for Bell, Bates clearly believes she has a promising future ahead of her:
“She was brilliant – someone with that sort of physique, swinging the ball in – if she keeps tracking in the right direction she could play for England one day.”
We know we are biased, but we’d disagree only with the word “could” – if she keeps tracking in the right direction she will play for England one day!