An aggressive 65-ball 63 from Susie Rowe made the difference, as Kent beat Essex in the opening round of the 2021 London Championship by 46 runs.
Rowe, who staged a comeback in competitive cricket last summer representing South East Stars in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, was by far the top-scorer from both sides on a pitch that was so green it looked like it wouldn’t know what a mower was if it ran it over.
“It didn’t come on that well,” Rowe said after the match. “There wasn’t much pace in it. You had to really wait for it and watch it. It meant you had to be quite aggressive and quite bold to get runs.”
“It was a tricky one but we got a score that we were able to defend. Essex got off to a good start but we were able to pull it back and come away with a decent victory.”
Essex had finished the 2020 mini-season winless, but came back fighting to turn their match against reigning 50-over County Champions Kent into a real contest – bowling the Horses out for 203.
Essex’s line-up were buoyed by the addition of Sunrisers’ Jo Gardner and Lissy Macleod, more usually found sporting Warwickshire and Berkshire shirts respectively.
However, both were keen to get some 50-over cricket under their belts before the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy begins later this month, and both made crucial interventions for Essex.
With the ball, Jo Gardner (3-37) took out the middle stump of Kent openers Megan Sturge and Sarah Bryce in successive overs, after Kent had reached 65 without loss.
Macleod, after bagging a couple of wickets with her off-spin, then led the charge at the top of the batting order, as Essex raced to 58-0 in their first 15 overs.
But 17-year-old Kalea Moore made the crucial breakthrough, trapping Macleod LBW for 28, while two run outs in quick succession dented Essex’s progress to the target still further.
It was the second spell from England left-armer Kirstie Gordon which really tore the heart out of their chase, though. Gordon – playing in just her third match for Kent after being handed her county cap in the T20 Cup last weekend – struck immediately to see off both Hayley Brown and Katherine Speed LBW, finishing with 4-23 as Essex were bowled out for 157 in 40 overs.
“It was a very green pitch, so we always knew that if we got a wicket there was a chance to get into them and take a cluster of wickets, and that’s exactly what Kirstie did,” said Rowe. “It was needed because at that stage the game could have gone either way.”
This year’s South East Stars squad is yet to be announced, but after today’s performance it would seem to be a no-brainer that Rowe’s name should be firmly on the team sheet when Stars play their opening fixture of the trophy against Sunrisers on 29 May.