For almost the whole of their run chase against Southern Vipers, Western Storm looked to be cruising to their 142-run target. On the two occasions their momentum was disrupted, though, one bowler was responsible: Tash Farrant.
Firstly, coming on to bowl the 11th over, with both Smriti Mandhana and Heather Knight looking set, Farrant outsmarted both – Smriti top-edging her slower ball to short fine leg, before Knight was castled 4 balls later. Then, after Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson had taken Storm to the brink, and with just 8 needed from the last 2 overs, Farrant again intervened: having Luff caught at mid off trying to go over the top, which in turn unsettled Wilson enough to run out her new partner Deepti Sharma.
It wasn’t quite enough for Vipers in the end, but Farrant – who England have, arguably, badly missed this summer after she lost her contract in February – at least gave them a sniff when it looked like the match was dead in the water. Farrant might no longer count as an “international” but she is still one of Vipers’ biggest assets.
Suzie Bates has taken on a different role at the Vipers this summer: having handed the captaincy reins over to Tammy Beaumont, she is now simply the senior pro; and she seems to be quite enjoying it: “I’m a lot more relaxed off the field!” she said at close of play today.
It’s given her time to focus more on her own game, and while her 38-ball 33 was less than fluent today – “I didn’t time it from ball 1, and then tried to overhit” – she was the player trusted by Beaumont to bowl the 20th over, with Storm needing just 2 runs from it. It seemed an impossible task, but Bates breathed life into a game that should have been done and dusted.
How did she approach it? “I’ve watched enough T20 cricket to know that you’ve just got to stay in the game,” she said afterwards. “I thought if I could bowl it full and straight – sometimes you get to that point and to finish the game as a batter is the hardest thing. I thought I had nothing to lose, and if I could hit the stumps I’d be in with a chance.”
First ball she had Wilson LBW: “I fell over with excitement that she’d missed a full and straight one! Then I knew it was going to be nervy for the batters coming in, so I had my back up and wanted to take it as deep as I could.”
Next ball was a dot, that hit incoming batsman Anya Shrubsole on the pad. Her third ball then sent Shrubsole packing, swinging and missing at yet another straight one.
Fortunately for Storm, Sonia Odedra and Naomi Dattani both kept their heads – each scoring singles, to see the visitors over the line with one ball to spare.
Interestingly, Bates has barely featured with the ball of late in T20 cricket. This was the first match in this year’s KSL in which she has been called on to bowl her full allocation. She did not bowl once for New Zealand in their T20 series against Indian in February this year, and in the World T20 in the Caribbean last November she bowled just 2 overs across 4 group stage matches.
Bates, though, wants to change that. “I want to be that bowler for the White Ferns that bowls to the death,” she said today, “so it helps to get those opportunities for the Vipers.”
New Zealand could do a lot worse.
Heather Knight and Fran Wilson have stolen the headlines on both occasions, but in Storm’s two recent run chases – against Thunder yesterday and Vipers today – Sophie Luff, coming in at number 5, has played a key role. Today, her 58-run partnership with Wilson steadied the ship at a crucial stage in the game, the pair running hard between the wickets to ensure the run rate continued to tick over.
Yesterday against Thunder, Wilson’s half-century was made with Knight at the other end: today, with Luff, she was the senior partner, which you’d think would have added more pressure. Not according to Wilson: “I didn’t feel like that really,” she said. “I’d probably say yesterday was harder.”
“I especially like batting with Luffy. She’s really good to bat with – complements our order really well, she can hit the boundaries, but I also don’t know how she gets the singles she gets – she sees the gaps that a lot of us don’t see.”
It helps that the pair have known each other since they were both playing under-12s age-group cricket for Somerset. “A bit of psychic powers there, maybe!” Wilson joked after play. “We’ve always batted well together. We both like to run well. We’re quite different as personalities as well – she keeps me quite level.”
Storm threw away the chance to reach last year’s final after they collapsed in the semi against Surrey Stars: a bit of Level Luff in this year’s competition is just what the doctor ordered.
Encouraging signs for the Storm particularly on two fronts. Last year, they tended to win by crushing margins thanks to Smriti Mandhana and, to a lesser extent, Heather Knight. This meant hardly anyone else got any time in the middle so when it didn’t work out, the Storm batters were undercooked. This time, Fran Wilson and Sophie Luff have had time in the middle and have made crucial contributions.
Secondly, last years Semi Final was a game the Storm should have won. It was a failure to close out a close game under pressure. This season, they have managed to win two tight run chases, I think this stands them in good stead for the rest of competition, especially if Mandhana fires at some point.
Yes, I think Mandhana is still obviously brilliant but surely can’t have as ridiculous a tournament as last year. So that means the middle order will have to bat a lot more for longer periods, and the trio of Knight, Wilson and Luff are perhaps the best consecutive players of any KSL team at manoeuvring the ball round, hanging on, staying in the game and keeping their nerve. They’ve really shown that in the last 2 matches. Very good performances from Storm on both occasions. Fran Wilson has been superb.
As for Farrant, the reasons as to why she was axed from England remain unfathomable to this day, as she clearly has much to offer.
I still feel for the ones who take minimal parts in games. They bowl or bat for their counties, but for their KSL team just field, or bring on drinks. How does this
“develop young talent in a senior league structure ?” Which I thought was one of the main reasons for the KSL set up? Or am I mistaken?
The lower teams in the league could the young a run out, or is it “old school”?
Due to the Surrey washout I had the opportunity to watch the Sky highlights of Lancs and Western Storm. The young stars v the experienced big guns disparity was in evidence again. Young Alex Griffiths busting a gut to get a super, diving forward catch. Whereas on the boundary Anya Shrubsole flapping at a catch chance at square leg, did not look good! Harmanpreet Kaur not backing up strongly, stitching up Sophia Dunkley, confirmed in comments from Charlie Dagnall and Lydia Greenway. The bowling of Shrubsole and Davies was poor and expensive, why not give a couple of overs to the new unknown players?
We shall see if any captains will be courageous and give them a go…….somehow I doubt it.