Grace Scrivens – dropped down the order after having “failed” in the opening role earlier in the tournament – and Naomi Dattani battled through 54 balls to pull London Spirit back from the deepest of deep holes at 26-6, to overhaul Birmingham Phoenix’s 82 all out, with just 3 balls remaining. Never has the old cliché of pulling victory from the jaws of defeat seemed more apt.
Needing a win (or a tie) to qualify for the eliminator, the pressure was all on Phoenix, who decided to push Sophie Molineux up the order to open in place of Eve Jones. It was a classic case of making a decision based on reputation rather than reality – Molineux has opened the batting for Melbourne Renegades in the past, but they were never particularly successful when she did, and last season, when they had their best season ever, she batted down the order. Unsurprisingly then, she didn’t last long today – sending a limp drive off Freya Davies straight to Amelia Kerr on the ring for 3 off 3.
This brought Amy Jones to the middle, who is developing something a reputation for dealing with pressure the same way a bar of Dairy Milk deals with being left in a hot car on a sunny day. Let’s just say… it doesn’t end well for the Dairy Milk, and it didn’t for Amy Jones – cleaned-up by an admittedly beautiful delivery from Megan Schutt. Ellyse Perry lasted just one ball, and suddenly Phoenix were 15-3.
While Sophie Devine was still there hope remained, but it was looking increasingly forlorn, with both Devine and Eve Jones struggling to find the middle of the bat, and the runs drying up to a trickle. They’d reached 32 off 34 balls when Devine looked to take a quick single, realised she wasn’t going to make it, and tried to retrace her steps, but not quite in time to prevent Grace Scrivens removing the bails after a sharp throw from Charlie Dean. 32-4.
Eve Jones and Georgia Elwiss put on 25, making 24 and 14 respectively – the only Phoenix batters to reach double-figures – but their pace was less than a run a ball, and both fell to infield catches are they tried to manufacture something to up the rate; and from there Phoenix imploded to 82 all out – no doubt to the delight of Northern Superchargers, Trent Rockets and Manchester Originals, all of whom needed Phoenix to lose to retain an interest themselves in qualification for Friday’s
But we are rapidly learning that if there’s one thing hundred-ball cricket can do it is turn on a dime, and within 11 balls of the Spirit innings it had done the kind of 180 Tony Hawk would have been proud of in his heyday. First Dani Gibson clonked Sophie Molineux to long on to register her 4th duck of the tournament – it happens, and the important thing in this super-short format is not to waste balls, which was Grace Scrivens’ “crime” when she was opening, so Gibson shouldn’t feel too badly about it.
Beth Mooney however probably should feel a little badly about her dismissal – given how few runs Spirit were chasing, there was no excuse really for the senior player to take on Sophie Devine’s arm, and she got her comeuppance! Amelia Kerr followed her back to the dugout 2 balls later – chipping into a space, which suddenly wasn’t a space any more, as Eve Jones sprinted in to take the catch on the dive. After Phoenix had been 15-3, Spirit were now 2-3.
But with Sophie Luff and Charlie Dean at the crease, and the ask well under a run a ball, it should still have been an easy chase, and it was set up for Luff and Dean, neither of whom are big hitters, to manage their way to the total, getting them in singles if necessary. And that seemed to be the way things were going, until both were softly dismissed, followed by Alice Monaghan. 26-6, and I suspect some glum faces among the Superchargers, Rockets and Originals players watching on from their homes or hotel rooms.
The batters in the middle: Naomi Dattani – whose greatest moments on a cricket field have tended towards the “see ball/ hit ball out of the ground” end of the spectrum, and Grace Scrivens, demoted down the order having looked puzzlingly out of form in the first few matches of this tournament.
But the required rate was still within reach – it was 50 off 50 at the half-way stage – so all they needed to do was hang in there and they’d give themselves a chance. And that’s exactly what they did. Dattani finished 28 off 29; and Scrivens 26 off 30, scoring just 3 boundaries between them, but they reached the final set with a gettable 7 needed from 5 balls, and Sophie Molineux (who will want to have this game clinically erased from her memory) did the rest – cracking under the pressure, bowling a head-hight no-ball, which effectively cost 5 runs to leave Spirit needing 2 off 4 balls. Scrivens needed just one ball to finish her tournament (and London Spirit’s) on a high which no one who was here will forget in a hurry.