Sasha Putt reports from the Ageas Bowl
A sunny day at the Ageas Bowl saw a determined Southern Brave side easily overcome the Welsh Fire, in a game which sees the hosts through to the final and Fire out of contention as they failed to chase down 167 off their 100 balls.
Batting first, the Brave started on the front foot, Danni Wyatt and Smriti Mandhana taking advantage of plenty of bad balls and a lucky reprieve off a no ball to score quickly, early. Wyatt reached 50 off 29 and the Brave made 100 off 62.
Wyatt’s departure for 53 did little to stem the flow of runs, as Mandhana brought up her half-century a few balls later. Full tosses, leg-side deliveries and errors in the field meant she and Sophia Dunkley brought up 150 for the Brave off 91.
A couple of late wickets and two wickets in two balls for Hayley Matthews came too late to help the Fire, who saw the Brave put up 166, the highest score the women’s competition has seen so far.
With a mammoth total before them the Fire were under pressure from the get-go, and excellent bowling from Lauren Bell, Anya Shrubsole, Amanda Jade-Wellington and co kept the Cardiff side to almost a run a ball for their first 40.
Bryony Smith, Georgia Redmayne and Sophie Luff all made it into the 30s, but kept managing to find fielders in the deep to restrict themselves to singles.
The run-per-ball requirement kept growing and growing, and soon the Fire found themselves chasing an unassailable total.
The result confirms what was predicted before the tournament – firstly that the Brave were by far tournament favourites, boasting a plethora of international talent in both the bowling and batting department. It also showed the Fire did not have the required star-power to wrest control of the game, especially in the bowling department.
This was most prevalent when the Fire found themselves unable to restrict or dismiss Mandhana or Wyatt, who swept spinners comfortably and punished bowlers who were off their length.
Following the game, Hero of the Match Mandhana found plenty of praise for all of the Brave’s attack: “The bowlers deserve to celebrate a lot – we’ve won a lot of matches because of them.”
Both teams now welcome a London side for their final game, with the Oval Invincibles travelling to Southampton and Cardiff welcoming the London Spirit. The Brave will look to keep their strong form going, whilst the Fire face a potential dead-rubber if the Spirit lose their next game.
There are no really weak sides in the competition. Even Fire, Phoenix and Originals have looked really good at times and especially when they’ve won. This Brave side are another level though, could they be the best women’s franchise side ever here in UK, if not anywhere? The cricinfo commentator rather flippantly asked “What psychopath assembled this team?!” as Brave were smacking the Fire bowlers to all parts. The batting lineup and the bowling lineup just keep coming at you. The result was another reminder of the sheer quality of this side, that have very few if any weaknesses, and are packed with current and future international talent. Let’s just hope the other finalist can put on a performance to challenge Brave in the final. It will be very interesting to see who gets there.