RHF TROPHY: Vipers v Stars – Death Becomes Her

Coming into this match after a convincing win over Sunrisers last weekend, Stars thought they had a real chance to upset Vipers at Hove – the ground where Vipers had wobbled a year before in the RHF as an Em Arlott hattrick had seen them go down to Sparks by 120 runs. Vipers were without Wyatt, Dean, Bell and Shrubsole; while Stars had both Freya Davies and Alice Davidson Richards back in the lineup; plus Alice Capsey back in some form with a half-century in that game against Sunrisers.

And there were a couple of occasions during the match when it looked like Stars were in the ascendancy. Batting first, Vipers made just 35 runs off the powerplay, for the loss of 2 wickets. 3 balls later, Ella McCaughan joined Maia Bouchier and Georgia Adams back in the dugout, and Vipers were 35-3, with another upset definitely on the cards as Paige Scholfield joined Georgia Elwiss at the crease.

But Georgia Elwiss is making cricket look like an easy game at the moment, and on a decent enough track, she began to lead a patient rebuild. Scholfield’s dismissal in the 20th over brought Emily Windsor to the middle, fresh from her 7-day rolling jaunt up at Loughborough, and the “steady as she goes” approach continued, with Elwiss going at a Strike Rate of about 75, and Windsor progressing from an initial Strike Rate of 30 to the dizzy heights of 60.

At the 30-over mark, Vipers were 119-4, heading for a total of around 200. But having rebuilt so meticulously, they were now at the stage were they could afford to start taking a few risks.

Overs 30-40 saw a significant step-up in the run rate. Having gone at 4-an-over for 20 overs, they doubled that to 8 an over, and then to 10 an over at the death, to post more than 300. They did pay a price, losing wickets to finish 9 down, but in a sense that’s the perfect 50-over innings – using all the resources at their disposal.

Emily Windsor was key to this, with 90 off 79 balls.

Although the last 20 overs was when the Vipers began to really step on the gas, Windsor had been building the whole time – her Strike Rate starting off in the 20s and finishing at over 100 – the progress being pretty close to a straight line.

In contrast, Elwiss was much steadier for her whole innings, chugging along nicely at 75.80 until the last 10, when she started to throw the bat a bit more.

Perhaps the most significant innings in the greater scheme of things though was 17-year-old Freya Kemp, who entered the fray in the 43rd over. Let’s not forget that this was only Kemp’s second List A game; and she was selected in theory as a bowler; but at Hove she smashed 40 off 23 balls, including a 6 over cow corner, into the 3rd row of the Sharks Stand. There are only a handful of players in the world that can do that, and yesterday Kemp joined them.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but with Capsey, Scrivens and now Kemp – all still teenagers – doing what they are doing, it is starting to feel like we’ve potentially got a golden generation on our hands; and Richard Bedbrook, in his new role heading up England’s pathway, needs to use every ounce of his considerable soft-power to ensure that they get the opportunities they need in the next couple of months to really push on. All 3 have the potential to be spending some of next winter in South Africa… and I’m talking about a World Cup, but not the Under 19 one! It would be a tragedy if any of them spent the Hundred batting at 8 or 9 and bowling the odd over here or there.

But I digress…

With Vipers having posted over 300, Stars were going to need to bat well; but this is a team that really can bat well, and Bryony Smith and “Test Centurion Alice Davidson Richards” (to give her full title – TCADR for short) got them off to the perfect start, taking them to 60-0 off the powerplay, well ahead of the worm.

Stars remained ahead of the worm for pretty-much their entire innings, but wickets were key and they began to lose them, as someone once said, first slowly then all at once, collapsing from 154-5 to 173 all out. Paige Scholfield was the key beneficiary, wrapping up the tail to finish with 3-29 off 5.4 overs; but all of the 7 bowlers used by the Vipers finished with at least one wicket as the Stars fell away, losing in the end by 133 runs.

Stars were despondent. Covering the match for the ECB Reporters Network, we were required to get quotes from a Stars player at the end, and we found ourselves casting around wondering if there were any Stars players who didn’t look like they were going to punch us if we asked them for an interview!! Bryony did it in the end… and she didn’t punch us, but she did seem very down. It was a tough day at the office to be sure, but I still think on balance Stars will probably be at Lords in September. There’s no “on balance” as to who they’ll be facing though, and I wouldn’t bet on a different outcome either – Vipers are just too good.