Southern Vipers beat Thunder at the Ageas Bowl by 4 wickets with 3 overs to spare, having dug themselves out of yet another hole with the bat.
Chasing 204 to win, Vipers had been 100 for 5 in the 26th over after set batter Paige Scholfield (31) was trapped LBW to Shachi Pai. Vipers super-fan Syd had his head in his hands and it looked to be as good as over.
But Vipers being Vipers, they found a middle-order pairing to rescue them from disaster…
This time it was Emily Windsor, who had done exactly the same thing a week ago against Southern
Vipers Brave in the final of The Hundred; and Chloe Hill, who had ALSO done the same thing six weeks ago, in the last round of RHF Trophy games against Sunrisers.
Windsor and Hill have had very different Augusts. Windsor played 4 matches for Invincibles in The Hundred but was called upon to bat just once – her thrilling 13 not out in the final the difference between a win and a loss for Invincibles. Her Vipers teammate Charlotte Taylor, sitting in the crowd at Lord’s, reportedly did not know who she should be cheering for when Windsor came to the crease.
Hill, meanwhile, was not picked up by a Hundred franchise. She spent August captaining Worcestershire Rapids in the 50-over West Midlands Regional Cup – ideal preparation for the RHF Trophy. Some may consider county cricket unimportant but for players like Hill, who draw on their experience at county to produce match-winning performances at regional level, county cricket remains a crucial link in the pathway chain.
Thunder were without their premier bowler Alex Hartley – who is commentating in the men’s Test at The Oval this weekend – but it wasn’t their “second string” bowlers that Vipers chose to target. Hill took on the bowling of Deandra Dottin, who offered up short ball after short ball for her delectation.
“I don’t mind a short ball!” Hill laughed after the match. “She bowled in my area and if a bowler’s going to bowl in my area, I’m going to play shots regardless of who they are.”
“The first four that went off her, I was like ‘ohhh, that felt good!’”
Thunder will have paid good money to have Dottin rejoin them for the final three rounds of the RHF but on today’s performance, it could have been better spent. Having scored just 5 runs with the bat, she went on to concede 36 runs from her 6 overs – the most expensive bowler in the Thunder attack.
For Thunder, then, a day that started well – with Emma Lamb (63) and Ellie Threlkeld (79) both putting in good days at the office – ultimately ended in disappointment. After today’s loss, they are now out of contention to make the final three and gain a place in the play-off.
Vipers, meanwhile, are now officially qualified alongside Northern Diamonds, who enjoyed a bonus-point win against Western Storm; with South East Stars still in pole position to join them.
Vipers have certainly made things difficult for themselves at times this year but they have a happy habit of finding a way of coming out on top. Windsor, Norris, Scholfield and Hill were all excellent in this game. Their secret to success is a very strong group of domestic players who fill in to a high standard when the internationals are away. In that light – and I hate to say this – but one of the few more easily apparent ways in which the Vipers squad could be improved would be by bringing a wicketkeeper batter to strengthen their batting line up. I know Rudd is a good keeper, but there would surely be more value in, say, a Bess Heath or Ellie Threlkeld who could also contribute more runs.
Elsewhere the Scots had a great day for Lightning – K Bryce and Gordon coming to the party to get the better of Sunrisers despite another battling 50 from Grace Scrivens. Diamonds (Winfield, Armitage, Heath, Levick – in many ways the usual suspects) put on a show against a Storm side who despite being a long way behind the game, fought well to nearly deny the bonus point. It was an impressive and improbable 100 partnership between Gibson and Smale. Yes, despite a very exaggerated open stance, Smale looks a very good batter. And finally, Stars were too strong for Sparks – mainly due to getting them 84/7 in the chase (Gray 3/28), which Sparks finally recovered to nearly 200 from, thanks to some lower order scores. Among these was an impressive 50 from Georgia Davis – a promising 23 year old player we seem to be hearing more and more of lately.