Sophie Luff top scored with 70 as Western Storm beat Lightning in Bristol, knocking Lightning out of the RHF Trophy.
Needing a win to maintain their slim hopes of qualification for the semi-final, Lightning won the toss and elected to insert their opponents on a sunny morning at the County Ground.
Fi Morris got off the mark with a lovely cut for 4 off Grace Ballinger, but otherwise it was a sedate start for Storm, with just 11 runs coming off the first 5 overs. However, Morris and Lauren Parfitt picked up the pace in the back-half of the powerplay to reach 10 overs at 38 without loss.
The introduction of Kirstie Gordon in the 11th over brought immediate results, with Morris dismissed for 25, adjudged LBW barely playing a shot to Gordon’s first ball.
The following over saw Parfitt joining Morris back in the shack – well caught over her head at backward point by Beth Harmer; and two shortly became three with Georgia Hennessy popping up a leading edge to offer Sophie Munro a straightforward catch off her own bowling, to leave Storm teetering on 42-3 with Alex Griffiths and Sophie Luff at the crease.
Yvonne Graves troubled both batters – the off-spinner getting some sharp turn off a hybrid pitch which looked to be a lot more “hybrid” than “pitch” at this stage of the season; though she did miss a chance to take the wicket of Griffith, who was on 10 at the time, dropping a return catch which wasn’t a doosie, but was one which you’d expect to be taken at this level.
Storm therefore reached the half-way mark without further loss, at 82-3 – captain Luff doing most of the work with 28 off 49 balls.
The Luff-Griffiths partnership meandered past 50, with Griffiths dropped again by Yvonne Graves off her own bowling on 25. The partnership was finally broken in the 33rd over – Griffiths bowled off her back leg, attempting a Sarah Taylor-esque drive off Kathryn Bryce, for 30.
Dani Gibson’s batting heroics for London Spirit lit up The Hundred, but she had hitherto failed to rediscover that form for Storm since the resumption of regional cricket. She took a bit of time to get going here too, and at one stage was 3 off 11 balls, but she soon began to accelerate, hitting Grace Ballinger for consecutive 4s in the 38th over as Storm finally began to make some hay.
Meanwhile Yvonne Grave’s misfortunes continued – Luff, looking to get to the pitch of the ball to negate the turn, finally missed one on 55, but Abbey Freeborn fumbled the regulation stumping chance.
Gibson, having raced to 29 off 26 balls, was trapped LBW by the returning Kirstie Gordon, who then snagged the big wicket of Sophie Luff for 70 off 11 balls – the skipper chipping to mid on, to leave Storm 181-6 with 7 overs remaining.
Some frantic stroke-play… and even more frantic running between the wickets… from Nat Wraith (13 off 14), Nicole Harvey (19* off 19) and Chloe Skelton (13* off 12, on her professional debut) took Storm well past the psychologically significant 200 mark to finish on 228-7, with Kirstie Gordon the pick of the bowling, continuing to make her case for an England comeback, taking 3-43.
With Lightning needing to score at almost 6 runs an over to get the bonus point win which would make semi-final qualification easier, albeit still a long shot depending on other results, they came out looking to play positively. A little too positively, it turned out, as Sarah Bryce called Beth Harmer for a sharp single, inviting her opening partner to take on the arm of Dani Gibson on the ring – a race which Harmer lost somewhat comprehensively, sending her back to the pavilion for 5.
Sarah Bryce was joined in the middle by sister Kathryn, but she lasted just 8 balls as Lauren Filer got one to swing in sharply, taking the edge and going through to Nat Wraith behind the stumps. Kathryn meanwhile had progressed to 27, but was bowled by Claire Nicholas to leave Lightning reeling at 38-3.
Abby Freeborn and Lucy Higham took the score on to 57 before Freeborn was bowled for 7 in a rush of blood to the head, dancing down the pitch and driving enthusiastically, but right past, a delivery from Nicole Harvey.
With Lightning struggling to get the ball past a tight Storm field, Teresa Graves looked to go aerial instead – hitting the first 6 of the match off Dani Gibson, but then thick-edging the very next ball to give Nat Wraith catching practice behind the stumps.
Lighting actually reached the 25-over mark at 91-5, some 9 runs ahead of where Storm had been at the same stage, but needing to accelerate significantly to win the game, with the bonus point already realistically out of reach.
Lucy Higham showed some stickability, hanging in there for 50 balls, but making just 23 runs – nothing like enough in the context of the match – before being trapped in front trying to reverse-sweep Fi Morris.
Ella Claridge then offered some last-ditch resistance, making 39; but the rest of the tail collapsed around her, with Nat Wraith taking 4 catches as Lightning were bowled out for 166.