Oval Invincibles thrashed London Spirit by 9 wickets with 42 balls remaining at Lord’s to secure their spot in the finals of The Hundred, sending Spirit crashing out with a round of matches still to play.
Spirit should have been on a high after racking up their first win of the tournament on Wednesday against Welsh Fire. Instead they essentially lost the match within the first 25 balls, facing down 13 dots and losing 3 wickets – including the biggie of Beth Mooney, who sent up a tame catch to Alice Capsey at cover.
For the first time in this year’s tournament, Mady Villiers was tasked with opening the bowing; and after having Dani Gibson caught at mid-off, captain Dane van Niekerk chose to keep her on for a second consecutive set. The wicket of Mooney was her reward.
Before today, Villiers had bowled her full allocation of balls only once in this year’s Hundred. With Sophia Smale launching onto the scene so successfully, and Alice Capsey continuing where she left off last year, Villiers has been somewhat overshadowed: against Trent Rockets she didn’t bowl at all, while in Invincibles’ last match v Phoenix, she bowled just 10 balls – neither set in the powerplay. But she made up for it today, finishing with figures of 4 for 12 and the Match Hero award.
So what did she do differently?
“I just kept it more simple,” she said after the match. “Previously I’ve looked too much at what the other players do and I’ve focused too much on what the other person’s skills are, rather than what my best ball is.”
“I bowled my arm ball today more than I’ve bowled it in the other two games put together.”
Interestingly, her third and fourth wickets – Naomi Dattani and Grace Scrivens – were both bowled, a mode of dismissal which is unusual for Villiers. A lot more of her wickets than “average” come from stumpings (20%, compared with an average in women’s cricket of 7%) – only 15% of her dismissals are bowled (compared with an average of 24%).
Or, as Villiers put it: “I got two bowleds today. I don’t think I’ve got too many bowleds in my life!”
With Invincibles facing Manchester Originals in their final group-stage match – a game which could be important in deciding whether they qualify automatically for the final – a boost of confidence for a spinner who has so far been discarded by England this summer won’t go amiss.
Meanwhile, Spirit limped along to 80 all out, losing wickets regularly along the way and facing down far too many dot balls; leaving Suzie Bates and Lauren Winfield-Hill to come out and show them how it should have been done, smashing 12 boundaries between them (4 more than Invincibles managed in their entire innings).
Despite a revamp of their overseas ranks, with Beth Mooney and Amelia Kerr brought in to replace Chloe Tryon and Deandra Dottin (who were both felt to have underperformed), Spirit’s batting just hasn’t fired this year. Tammy Beaumont’s decision to move to Welsh Fire was a big blow; but of course the loss of Heather Knight just days before the competition started was the real biggie.
“Heather is a great person to have around, such a great leader,” Naomi Dattani said after the match. “Her experience and nous with the bat – we definitely miss having her. She’s around today and it’s been nice to have her in the dressing room and use that experience where we can.”
Dattani added that Spirit’s lop-sided schedule hadn’t helped matters:
“Three games away [to start] – we were on the road for 10, 11 days. We needed to start well. We had a couple of close games and if one of those were a win, it might have got us going.”
“We didn’t get over the line in the first couple of games and then we were on the back foot from there.”