After a profitable powerplay in which Danni Wyatt successfully hogged much of the strike, plundering three sixes and six fours, Southern Vipers looked to have set a good platform for themselves against Yorkshire Diamonds – reaching 62 without the loss of a wicket.
However, the next few overs swung things hugely back in the Diamonds’ favour – the dismissal of Suzie Bates the cue for a top-order collapse, courtesy of another brilliant spell by leg-spinner Katie Levick, who finished with 2-17 from her 4 overs – only marginally more expensive than her 2-13 at Guildford on Tuesday.
By the time Paige Scholfield reached the crease, in the 14th over, Vipers were 90-5 and badly feeling the absence of their usual big-hitting middle-order batsman, Stafanie Taylor (sitting out with an injury niggle). “It was a lot of pressure”, the 23-year-old admitted after the game. “We do train for those situations, but it’s never nice to go into that.”
Scholfield did not tee off straight away, but focused instead on running hard between the wickets with partner Thea Brookes – the pair added 17 runs across the next 3-and-a-bit overs, all in singles.
“As soon as I came in I said to Thea we’ve got to put pressure back on Yorkshire because I thought they were on top of us at this point,” Scholfield said. “And I said if we run hard between the wickets and set ourselves a nice little platform for the last remaining overs, then it takes a lot of pressure off us and we can play a lot more freely.”
It meant that Scholfield was still there in the penultimate over, when Diamonds reintroduced Beth Langston – at which point she pounced, stroking two boundaries through the leg side before pelting up and down the pitch for successive twos. The pressure got to Diamonds so much that even the impeccable Alyssa Healy fumbled a straightforward run out opportunity behind the stumps.
“I said anything off my legs I’m going to go at, because I like to play off my legs. Put it in the pockets and hit the gaps. It paid off today,” Schofield said.
“And then with Langers I do prefer pace on the ball, so I said anything that misses my pads is going.”
It still looked to be an under-par total – “I felt like I should have been there to the end, and I was hoping in that last over to put another 6 or 8 runs on the board”, Scholfield admitted, having been brilliantly caught by Jemimah Rodrigues at cover off the second ball of the 20th over – but at the very least you felt like it was one that Vipers COULD defend, if they bowled well.
They started well – Diamonds hitting just 29 from the powerplay overs and losing Healy along the way, run out by Wyatt having made only a very half-hearted effort to make her ground at the non-striker’s end.
Holly Armitage should have gone early – TV reviews showing she was plumb LBW to Lauren Bell when still in single figures – but ended up sticking around until the 14th over, making a 38-ball 34. By that time Diamonds were 83-3 and needing simply to bat sensibly at a run a ball to make the target.
“The last 4 overs we were all just very nervous,” Scholfield admitted. “But I think the girls held it really well together. We all said heads in the game, don’t let anything get to us. Tammy captained really well, making sure the girls were still in the game, and no one gave up, which is a big thing in T20 because it does always come down to the last ball.”
And so it did on this occasion – Katie George facing off against Suzie Bates, needing to hit six from the final ball, after Bates had earlier taken the crucial wicket of the in-batsman Rodrigues as the 18-year-old tried to finish things in style and was bowled.
It was tense – up on the Vipers balcony, Charlotte Edwards could barely bring herself to watch – but Bates hit a good length and George managed just the single, handing Vipers the win by 3 runs.
Move over Marizanne Kapp: there’s a new death bowler in town, and her name is Suzie Bates.