Middlesex’s 100% record in the London Cup against Surrey remains just about intact after they got across the line on the final ball of a reduced-overs tonk-a-thon at Lord’s this evening, in the first ever women’s county fixture to be played at the ground.
Though the rain attempted to intervene, with only 12 overs able to be played out and a lengthy delay between the two innings, it was clearly still an intensely exciting day for the players, who had earlier been out and about assisting with the various softball cricket matches taking place on the ground throughout the afternoon.
“It was a great honour to be playing here,” Surrey captain Hannah Jones said after the match. “For a lot of us it’s the only time we’re ever going to get to play here – the moment really got us all as a team when we were walking out of the Long Room at the start of the match.”
Head of Women’s Cricket at Middlesex and MCC, Danni Warren, also heralded the day a great success.
“We had a very successful ‘Women’s Day’ in 2018, and the question is, how do you go one better? The London Cup is a very competitive fixture and one which the girls look forward to – it’s always been a goal of mine to make sure that we got to play it at Lord’s at some point, and the MCC were kind enough to let us take over their ‘Women’s Day’ with that.”
“It’s been a really enjoyable day, and the women’s softball event got over 200 women out here playing cricket on the outfield at Lord’s.”
On the pitch, the star of the show was Lauren Bell, making her Middlesex debut, who not only removed Surrey’s best batsman Bryony Smith in the opening over of the fixture; but also made an unexpected cameo with the bat, entering the fray with her side needing 8 runs from the last 5 balls of the match.
Bell kept a calm head, finding the gaps with two singles, running hard with partner Tash Miles, and – crucially – chipping in with the only boundary of the Middlesex innings as she middled it through backward point, finishing 6* at the end as Miles hit the necessary single off the last ball.
Earlier, play had eventually got under way 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, with Middlesex electing to field having won the toss.
Bell, who claimed the honour of being the first woman to open the bowling in a county match at Lord’s, celebrated by bowling Smith with a full-pitched inswinger with her fifth ball of the day.
Fellow pacer Katie Wolfe also struck in her first over – a wicket maiden – as Kirstie White sent a leading edge to Beth Morgan at midwicket.
By the time the rains came down, 7 overs into Surrey’s innings, the visitors were 3 wickets down with 28 runs on the board – Dunkley having trapped left-hander Aylish Cranstone LBW attempting the sweep.
It should have been an easy chase for Middlesex, who were set a reduced target for 26 off their allotted 5 overs, but nerves almost got the better of them.
The home side initially put their hopes in Naomi Dattani and Amara Carr, fresh from herself punishing the Middlesex bowlers in the Women’s County Championship on Monday with a century for her 50-over county, Devon.
However, Bryony Smith conceded just 2 from her first over, meaning the pressure was on. It quickly told: some smart work from Surrey keeper Rhianna Southby ensuring that – in the space of 3 balls – both Carr and the in-form Sophia Dunkley were stumped chasing deliveries from captain Hannah Jones.
When Dattani also departed in Smith’s next over – caught by Priyanaz Chatterji at mid-off – Middlesex were 5-3 and looking out of it completely.
Miles and Cordelia Griffith clawed it back by plundering 12 runs from the fourth over, taking advantage of the pace of Eva Gray and some sloppy fielding which cost Surrey a crucial overthrow.
It was Jones who stepped up to bowl the final over of the day, but despite a third lightning quick stumping from Southby (who was voted Player of the Match by the umpires) to see off Griffith, Bell’s cool head saved the day.
Credit should be given to the Lord’s groundstaff, who fought to get the players back out after it looked like the rain had set in for the evening; as well as to those at the MCC who allowed the fixture – which had been relegated to outgrounds on its two previous outings – to take place at Lord’s, thereby giving all the players a chance to make history.