A well-composed innings from Georgia Hennessy proved to be crucial at New Road on Saturday as Western Storm produced a minor upset of sorts against Central Sparks.
Hennessy struck four boundaries in her 47 from 45 balls to guide her side to the finishing line, whilst Dani Gibson’s 14-ball cameo ensured there would be no late twist as she hit 24 not out, as Storm chased down the 135 they needed with seven balls to spare.
There was a time when that sort of chase might have proved too stiff four times out of five in domestic T20 cricket. These days it will probably be knocked off four times out of five, and Hennessy’s patient innings was ample evidence of why as she martialled the pursuit at just the right pace, choosing the right balls to hit, the right balls to nudge and nurdle, the right balls to defend.
Earlier Amy Jones’s 63 had threatened to put Sparks in a commanding position, but although it took the England wicketkeeper just 46 balls it was an innings that felt as though it lacked some of the effortless fluency that oozes from Jones at her best, with too many seemingly well-hit shots finding fielders in the ring. And with no other Sparks batter able to go at quicker than a run-a-ball save for Abby Freeborn – and then only just – the home side’s innings never quite got into its stride.
Hennessy played second fiddle to Fi Morris’s early belligerence as Storm set about the chase, although Sparks will rue a moment of carelessness that might well have turned the course of the contest.
13 had come off Grace Potts’s opening over, but Issy Wong’s first ball from the opposite end rivalled Jenny Gunn’s famous “whiff” for its deceptive lack of pace and bowled Morris comprehensively as she swung way too early. First blood, it seemed, but Morris was evidently wise to the situation, remonstrating immediately, and umpire Naeem Ashraf agreed. Sparks had their field wrong, and an outstretched arm thwarted the celebrations.
Potts and Wong did manage to drag things back though, and after Morris picked out Gwen Davies at point, and then Emily Arlott found Sophie Luff’s edge for Amy Jones to take the catch, the match looked in the balance at 45 for two.
Fran Wilson’s experience in such a situation was the glue that Storm needed, and with Hennessy settled the pair added 57 for the third wicket at a perfect tempo, leaving Gibson to apply the fatal blows with two inventive fours and a mammoth six over deep midwicket.
There was little doubting Storm’s superiority on the day, with Sparks looking somewhat subdued both in the field and with that bat. Wong’s early departure for just two stifled much prospect of an early charge, and whilst the habitually-prolific Joneses batted well enough in their 65-run partnership there was always the sense that runs were being left out there somewhere.
Freeborn couldn’t get going – aside from one towering six over long off – nor could Ami Campbell, nor Davies, in the limited time they were afforded at the crease, and Sparks’ innings neither got bogged down nor took off, meandering along at six-ish an over pretty much throughout, and having lost only four wickets the inability to accelerate on a pitch that didn’t look perfect but didn’t appear to misbehave noticeably either was ultimately a big factor in their defeat.
They will go into Finals Day next Sunday needing to find some ‘oomph’ in their game if they are to get the better of Stars in the semi-final, let alone Vipers after that. They undoubtedly have the players on their day. One way or another, this wasn’t their day.