In a precursor to Sunday’s semi-final, it was Loughborough Lightning who finished on top in the last ever KSL match to be played at the “Snake Pit” (aka the Ageas Bowl), by 36 runs.
Lightning’s win came largely thanks to the platform laid down by Amy Jones and Chamari Atapattu, the pair reaching 74 without loss in the first 9 overs before Atapattu was clean bowled by Suzie Bates for 35.
Up to that point Jones had been content to let her more fiery partner do most of the big-hitting, but having settled into her stride she was able to push on, slogging away through the leg side and hitting a couple of maximums down the ground.
“It is definitely crucial to build that platform. At times I feel like “I’m going too slow”, but luckily Attu hits the ball so hard and gets off pretty quickly. That definitely helps. Sticking in and knowing you can catch up later is key,” Jones said.
“I feel like I’m starting a bit slower, but it’s not really been a problem as long as I keep my head and don’t throw it away. That’s been one of the key learnings from the Ashes is you have time – it’s amazing what a bit of pressure can do to you, all of a sudden you feel like third ball you have to play a big shot. I feel a lot more in control and confident to build an innings throughout.”
Despite the loss of Georgia Elwiss and Mignon du Preez in successive balls in the 17th over, the fact that Lightning still had a “set” batsman at the crease made all the difference – Jones adding 37 runs across the final 3 overs of the innings.
In so doing she helped her side rack up the highest ever KSL total at the Ageas Bowl, while she herself reached her highest score in the competition, finishing unbeaten on 74* (53 balls).
The contrast with the way Southern Vipers approached their chase was marked – the loss of their “big three” inside the powerplay overs (Bates, Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont) – with Wyatt in particular doing herself in by plopping the first ball she faced straight into the hands of point – effectively ended any chances they had of reaching their target. Fi Morris batted bravely towards the denouement, her nifty 36 showcasing just how much her batting has improved in the past 12 months, but she was left with far too much to do.
Ahead of Finals Day on Sunday, Jones said that the win was crucial:
“I think it’s big. Everyone talks about momentum in competitions, especially going into finals. It will definitely give us a lift. Everyone in the changing room is up, and pretty excited, so it will definitely help.”
What is perhaps more significant is the fact that Lightning were able to achieve the victory without two of their key players, with both Hayley Matthews (West Indies) and Kathryn Bryce (Scotland) now recalled to their national sides.
“That’s another reason why this game was so important to us,” Jones added. “It shows the depth that we’ve got. That definitely adds to the win today.”
Vipers and Lightning have been on very different trajectories this tournament – Lightning lost 3 out of their 4 opening games but have now won 6 on the trot; while Vipers won their first two matches but have ended up on the wrong side in 3 of their 4 final encounters – so it is going to be fascinating to see who steals the last glory in the semi-final come Sunday.