Katya Witney at Northampton
The Southern Vipers were crowned the winners of the Charlotte Edwards Cup in Northampton on Saturday as they swept aside qualifiers the Central Sparks on their way to the trophy.
An exciting finals day got underway with the County Ground bathed in sunshine and the Sparks taking on the South East Stars in a thrilling low-scoring contest for a place in the final.
It was carnage from the first over as Issy Wong dismissed Bryony Smith with her third delivery. This started an almighty top-order collapse which saw Wong and Potts combine to leave the Stars reeling at 25 for 5 after the powerplay. There was some brilliant fast bowling from the pair, combined with some poor shot selection from the Stars’ top order.
Kalea Moore and Alice Davidson-Richards were tasked with rebuilding for the Stars in the middle overs and they managed to lift their side to 83 for 5 going into the final five.
Just as they may have been starting to think about a half-decent score, Sarah Glenn broke the partnership, dismissing Davidson-Richards in her final over for a well-batted 29.
The Stars managed to cobble their way to a total of 104 for 8 by the end of their innings, Wong finishing with impressive figures of 2 for 8 off her four overs. Despite the recovery, it looked to be a straightforward chase for the Sparks.
Indeed, Wong and Eve Jones made an explosive start, smashing boundaries to take their side to 34 for 0 off three overs. Sparks looked to be cruising towards their target when they suffered a rapid collapse. After losing Wong they lost three wickets for just one run to leave them 60 for 4 in the ninth over.
Tensions rapidly heightened as wickets continued to fall, Smith bowling beautifully taking 4 wickets for 14.
After Sarah Glenn was dismissed trying to smash a four square of the wicket, there looked to be another twist in the tale with the Sparks still needing seven and Grace Potts now at the crease.
It took the calm head of Emily Arlott to guide the Sparks to their target, farming the strike beautifully to knock the runs off. As Arlott smashed the first ball of the final over for four and leapt triumphantly in the air, the Sparks’ place in the final was secured. The Stars had put in an admirable defence of a small total, but their chance of back-to-back titles was always going to be tough after their first-innings collapse.
All eyes now turned to see whether the so-far unbeaten Southern Vipers could claim the trophy or whether the Sparks could spring a surprise on the favourites.
Fresh from their nervy early afternoon chase, the Sparks elected to bat again with an unchanged side.
After a tidy first over from Lauren Bell, Charlie Dean struck immediately, bowling Eve Jones as she looked to relieve the pressure with a big shot. Kemp replaced Dean from the Wantage Road End and produced another breakthrough as Wong mistimed a powerful drive and was brilliantly caught by Maia Bouchier at mid-on. Sparks were 15 for 2 in the fourth over.
Amy Jones looked in dangerous form and was finding the boundary with ease, an aerial shot from the right-hander flew straight through the hands of Georgia Adams at mid-off and down to the boundary. The drop didn’t prove too costly, however, as two overs later Jones mistimed another shot down the ground and Bouchier took a second excellent catch.
The Vipers bowled excellently and built the pressure well in the middle overs. It paid off as Abi Freeborn danced down the pitch to Elwiss, Rudd completing an easy stumping. With Campbell run out in the following over, Sparks were faltering at 62 for 5.
Glenn came in and looked to advance the scoring in the final five, picking up boundaries behind square to Dean. She was dismissed by Adams in her final over, the right-armer taking a smart catch off her own bowling. Adams took a second wicket in the same over, fielding off her own bowling again to run out Arlott at the non-striker’s end.
As the Sparks’ innings meandered to a close it was reminiscent of their earlier innings, a promising start stifled by the fall of quick wickets. Perrin was run-out in the last over pushing for a second and they finished on 109 for 8. Tight bowling from the Vipers had produced the rewards, forcing the errors from the Spark’s batters and derailing their innings.
The Sparks needed early wickets if they were to produce a repeat of this morning’s thriller. Wong delivered in the first over, taking the wicket of Adams for a duck, brilliantly caught by Eve Jones low to the ground.
A big opportunity was missed by Glenn to dismiss Danni Wyatt for just five in the second over, a simple catch put down at mid-on. Wyatt looked in the mood to capitalise as she raced to 20 off 10 but another opportunity to dismiss her at mid-on was taken in the fourth over, Potts safely snaffling the catch.
The damage looked done however and as the powerplay ended with Vipers 50 for 2, Elwiss and Bouchier looked content to knock around the singles and pick the boundaries off bad balls. Elwiss was given out LBW to Glenn in the seventh over but Bouchier was hitting her stride at 26 off 16 in the 7th over.
It was looking very easy for the Vipers and the Sparks were struggling to build any pressure before a full and straight delivery from Arlott shattered Bouchier’s middle stump. As Dean came to the crease it was very much the last throw of the dice for the Sparks.
However, they couldn’t stop Vipers marching on towards their target. McCaughan and Dean built a solid partnership to see their side home with 25 balls remaining.
As McCaughan heaved the winning runs through the leg side for a boundary, the Vipers had completed a dominant T20 campaign. McCaughan and Dean were swamped by their teammates running onto the field in celebration. Their near clinical performance had proved too much for the Sparks who couldn’t build on their victory earlier in the afternoon.
Speaking after her team had lifted the trophy, Southern Vipers head coach Charlotte Edwards said:
“I couldn’t be prouder this week to go unbeaten in seven and to win in that fashion and to improve every game like we have done at the moment.”
“They’ll enjoy tonight. They deserve it. It’s been a great, great few weeks. It’s been tiring, but topped off well here at Northampton today.”
“I said to the team before they went out there that they’ve played brilliantly, but six out of six won’t mean as much if we don’t get the seventh. But the message wasn’t to do anything different than what we’ve been doing and this is what’s so great about this group. They’re used to finals and they’re used to having pressure.”
“Going into this T20 competition, we didn’t play as well as we should have last year and that disappointed us. Our goal is to win the double. We’ve done one bit of that – now we’ve got a massive part of the season to come in the 50 over comp.”
“We want to win, and I think that’s the kind of culture we’ve created down at the Vipers and we don’t want to be second place. I couldn’t be more pleased today really and to do it here again with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint win here last year as well is brilliant.”
“We’ve got Rachael and Charlotte now, that’s what the girls keep saying. They’ve been so desperate to bring Charlotte back to the Ageas and to do that today, under the pressure they’ve been under coming in as favourites, I’m really chuffed.”
“I think what we’ve created here (at the Vipers) is competition for places. I’ve had some really tough selections over the last few weeks and I think that means so much for us today. We just keep producing players that will go on and play for the Vipers and for England, which is again another part of our job. We seem to be doing both at the moment and I’m really, really proud.”
Central Sparks captain Eve Jones said:
“Obviously disappointed today. We thought we’d learn things once scores were on the board in the final. Things didn’t quite go to plan in the first game but we managed to scrape through. Obviously we didn’t quite reach our potential today.”
“Amy (Jones) has been unbelievable for us this season, both with the bat and the gloves so it’s great to have her around. Hopefully we might have her around a bit longer with the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy next up to give us a bit of confidence for that.”
“I think we’ve had a really good winter of training, and I think from that as time goes on, it’ll be good to see how we go in the longer format. Hopefully it gets us to the final and we can go one better.”
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Why did Sparks bat first ? Their only real hope of winning was to install Vipers and hope Sparks’ excellent bowling attack kept Vipers total down to a chase-able target.
Batting first, if both of the Joneses got out relatively cheaply then a poor total was almost certain.
The semi-final almost proves this point – excellent bowling led to a chase-able total (albeit with Sparks trying their hardest to cock it up once the Joneses had departed).
Agreed Clanger, it’s not as if Sparks had just bowled second in the semi so then felt like they had to bat first.