Hampshire began the day at Aldershot Cricket Club knowing that their destiny was in their own hands: if they won both games, they would be the winners of the last ever County T20 Cup.
In fact, it was 50-over County Champions Kent who stole their thunder, winning both of their matches to leapfrog Hampshire and take third place in the final standings.
The two sides faced off in the first match of the day, with Kent winning the toss and electing to bat first. Maxine Blythin took advantage of some early fortune – including being dropped behind the stumps when still in single figures – to top-score with 43: hers was eventually the first wicket to fall in the 16th over, though her opening partner Kirsty Dymond had retired hurt several minutes earlier having been hit on the upper body.
Hampshire reined Kent back somewhat in the last 5 overs, with Providence Cowdrill taking 3 quick wickets, but the visitors still amassed 124-5.
Last weekend against Surrey, Hampshire had successfully chased down 155, and they initially looked on course to do again, with Maia Bouchier making up for the mix-up which caused the run out of local hero Ella Chandler by slamming Chelsea Rowson for six over square leg and playing some beautiful on drives.
However, the home side were pegged back in their chase by some tight bowling from Megan Belt and Grace Gibbs, who seems back to her best after the horrific knee injury which saw her miss the back end of last season.
With Bouchier still at the crease, Hampshire still had a chance; but in an attempt to force up the run rate the opener ending up miscuing Rowson to point in the 15th over, with Hampshire still needing 41.
The target ultimately proved out of reach, wickets tumbling in the last 3 overs as Hampshire concluded on 117-8.
In Kent’s second match, against Wales, Blythin was again the star of a low-scoring encounter, dismissed 2 runs short of her half-century but hitting a grand total of 53% of Kent’s total of 91 all out in 19 overs. Only a good low caught-and-bowled from Gabby Basketter was enough to account for Blythin, though it also saw the spinner taken off the hospital and unable to bat due to a possible fracture.
Sadly Wales were unable to back up their bowling performance with the bat – the combination of Tash Farrant and Alice Davidson-Richards leaving them reeling at 12-4 in the first 5 overs, including Rachel Priest, clean bowled by ADR.
Claire Nicholas showed some resistance but could not keep up with the rate, taking 40 balls to amass 24 before Megan Belt trapped her LBW in the 16th over, with Rowson ultimately finishing things off in the 17th as Kent won by 19 runs.
Hampshire went into the last match of the day knowing that it was all or nothing, needing to win if they were to have any chance of topping the table.
The pressure appeared to tell, with Wales’ decision to put them in quickly paying off as first Maia Bouchier and then Sam Betts fell in consecutive deliveries in Nicholas’ first over – a double-wicket maiden.
Captain Katie George was next to go, driving a ball of Danielle Gibson into the hands of Lauren Parfitt at extra cover; while Alexandra Griffiths then decimated the middle order, both Fi Morris and Lucia Kendall falling victim to identical dismissals as Bethan Gammon held 2 stonking catches at mid-on.
Charlie Dean then ran out Ella Chandler after the opener had scored 21, and only some last-minute boundaries from Providence Cowdrill in the final over allowed Hampshire to take their score past 70.
Could they defend it? Stranger things have happened in women’s county cricket, but it wasn’t to be for Hampshire this time around – Priest finally coming to the party with a 25-ball 23. While two quick wickets from Providence Cowdrill did give them a glimmer of hope, Wales were already well on their way by then, and Nicholas ultimately finished things in style with two beautiful drives for four as Wales triumphed with 3 and a half overs to spare.
So that’s that – as far as we know – for the T20 Cup. The triple-headers are long days – for the players and us! – but it’s been a blast. Thanks for having us.