An undefeated 35 off 56 balls from Amanda “Steamer” Potgieter took Berkshire to a 5 wicket victory over Essex at North Maidenhead Cricket Club, in the first round of Division 2 of the County Championship.
Chasing just 100 to win, Berkshire got off to a wobbly start, losing openers Emily Cunningham and Millie Allerton cheaply to leave them 8-2 after 8 overs. But captain Lissy Macleod (30) and new signing Anya Shrubsole (22) steadied the ship to put the Beavers on course to victory, hitting through the aggressive fields set by Essex, which at one point included two slips and a short leg.
Nonetheless, there was still work to do after Shrubsole was adjudged to have nicked behind to to keeper Scarlett Hughes off Mady Villiers and Macleod was bowled by opposing skipper Kelly Castle.
But from 74-5, with plenty of time in hand, Potgieter (35*) and 19-year-old Scottish glove-butler Ellen Watson (5*) kept their cool to guide Berkshire home with 14 overs to spare.
Earlier, England prospect Lauren Bell had taken 3-21 as Essex had been bowled out for exactly 100, with extras making up all but half the total at 47, and no Essex batsman reaching double figures.
Bell opened the bowling with Anya Shrubsole, with the ball swinging under heavy skies, and it wasn’t long before Shrubsole was in the scorebook at her new county, bowling both Essex openers – Beth Harmer and Kelly Castle – for 1 apiece.
Bell then accounted for Mady Villiers, bowled for 4, and Catherine Dalton, run out for 8, to leave the visitors in real trouble at 28-4.
By that stage, the battle for Essex was just to hang around long enough to make it interesting, and that they just about did – Jess Bird seeing off 31 deliveries on her way to 8, and Hayley Arrol lasting 35 balls for 3 – as Essex collapsed over the finish line to close on 100: Bell cleaning up the tail by bowling Arrol and keeper Scarlett Hughes for 4 off 21.
It made it interesting… but not quite interesting enough from an Essex perspective, and they will be hoping to get a few more runs on the board when they travel to Wales next weekend.
Meanwhile Berkshire will go into tomorrow’s Women’s County Cricket Day fixture against Worcestershire with a degree of confidence, bolstered by the return of Heather Knight to their lineup, hoping to make it two-from-two from the opening weekend.