London Spirit officially knocked Welsh Fire out of The Hundred with an 8 wicket win at Lords.
Not that Spirit are really in much position to celebrate either – their chances of making the eliminator are pretty-much zero too, though they could mathematically still sneak in on Net Run Rate – so this was very much a consolation victory; but nonetheless a win at the Home of Cricket is still a win at the Home of Cricket, and for one player in particular, this could be a career-defining game.
Having made good, quick runs coming in lower down the order for London Spirit last season, Dani Gibson would have been looking forward to building on that this year; but things didn’t go quite the way she hoped in the first two matches: a golden duck against Superchargers was followed by another first-baller against Brave.
A 12 off 7 balls against Rockets was more promising, but with Grace Scrivens struggling… of which more in a minute… today was Gibson’s chance – promoted to open the batting alongside Beth Mooney, who has had her own struggles of late, though today’s half-century was her 4th in her past 7 innings, so it’s all relative!
With the help of a small slice of luck – caught off a no ball – Gibson struck 34 off 27 balls, outscoring Mooney 25-10 in the powerplay, to get the Spirit’s chase off to the bright start they needed.
It has become the pattern in The Hundred this summer that teams score strongly in the powerplay, then fall back in the second quarter of the match, before pushing on in the third and final quarters, and today was no exception, with Spirit scoring at 150 in the powerplay, falling back to 120 in the second quarter, before pushing back up to 150+ as they pushed on to the win.
Having made the most of her opportunity, Dani Gibson has presumably got the opening role wrapped up now for the Spirit’s final two games, though they will be tough ones – Invincibles and Phoenix await, both pushing for direct final qualification if Brave slip up.
Gibson’s chance comes at the expense of Grace Scrivens, who has chosen a very bad time to have a terrible run of form. It’s not just the scores – 1, 18 and 8 – but the Strike Rates. The 18 was off 18 balls, which is “okay” (but only really “okay” for an opener in this competition) but the 1 was off 9 balls and the 8 was off 18 – Strike Rates of 11 and 44. It’s not a fair reflection of her talent, but as my dad always told me: life isn’t fair.
Everyone has dips in form – Alice Capsey had a pretty a rough patch in the Charlotte Edwards Cup earlier this summer, while Scrivens was the one putting in Player of the Match performances for Sunrisers – but no one was watching then. Now the eyes of the world are on them, it is Capsey wowing the crowds once again, while Scrivens had ended up dropped down the order, back where she started last season.
Scrivens’ biggest problem is that what’s left of the summer is short and the winter is long – though presumably she’ll go to the Under 19 World Cup in January, quite possibly as captain – but it is a 11 months until The Hundred comes around again, and that’s quite a wait for the next opportunity.
It’s also a long wait for the next opportunity for Welsh Fire, who can’t qualify for the eliminator now even if they win their remaining two games by a million runs! Most of their batters haven’t come to the party this season, while one of those that did (Hayley Matthews) left early, and is no longer available, having returned to the West Indies for their Caribbean Premier League.
Their innings today stuttered rather than flowed, with 5 “sets” – a whole quarter of the innings – producing just 1 or 2 runs.
In a tournament where the average first innings score has been 136, you can’t afford to throw away a quarter of your innings like that, and unsurprisingly Fire ended up well short of where they needed to be.
As Polly and Richard discussed on last week’s Noughtie Child Podcast, some teams develop a winning mentality, but Fire seem to have saddled themselves with a losing one. The cycle can be broken, as Tasmania proved by winning this year’s WNCL, but it takes something special, and Fire aren’t a “young” side either – the average age of today’s team was 27, with just one teenager (Hannah Baker) in the XI. They had a bit of a clear-out this season, retaining only just over half their squad – they look like they need another now, if they want to avoid an early walk through the exit door again next time around.