New kids on the block The Blaze continued their unbeaten 2023 season with a 5-wicket win against South East Stars in the opening round of the Charlotte Edwards Cup at Beckenham, thanks to a stolid 63 not out from no.4 Georgie Boyce.
Stars had scored an above-average 160, and when Nat Sciver-Brunt and Tammy Beaumont were dismissed in the 9th and 10th overs – sparking a Blaze collapse of four wickets for 22 runs – it looked like the home side were on course for a win.
Beaumont and Sciver-Brunt had both shown signs of brilliance: Sciver-Brunt’s six off Danielle Gregory thudded into the sight-screen, while Beaumont – perhaps as a signal of intent to the England selectors – chose to open up the innings, and pulled Ryana Macdonald-Gay for a maximum over midwicket in the third over.
But Sciver-Brunt was caught in the deep for 19. Eight balls later, and two runs short of her half-century, Beaumont fell to a brilliant diving catch by Bryony Smith at cover. Sarah Glenn, meanwhile, holed out to Alice Davidson-Richards in the deep for 4.
It was left to Boyce to bring home the bacon, hitting a series of well-placed boundaries and one sweet six smashed over the head of bowler Paige Scholfield, which gradually whittled the target down.
Boyce was dropped at cover in the 17th over, allowing her to bring up a 28-ball fifty. Meanwhile, her partner Nadine de Klerk (16* off 15) survived an edge through the hands of diving wicketkeeper Kira Chathli in the ante-penultimate over, as Stars felt the pressure.
With just two runs needed from the final over, bowled by Davidson-Richards, The Blaze reached their target with four balls to spare.
Earlier, on a blustery day at Beckenham, The Blaze had won the toss and chosen to bowl first. They were at full strength with Beaumont, Glenn and Sciver-Brunt – making her debut for the East Midlands region – all present and correct, while Stars did without Alice Capsey, sitting out as a precaution after a recent foot injury.
Bryony Smith played in customary fashion, smashing 14 runs off the first over from Grace Ballinger, before playing straight into the hands of Marie Kelly at long on in the second.
Tash Farrant, promoted to no.3, was trapped LBW trying to sweep left-armer Ballinger, while Scholfield was caught trying to go over the top, handing Sciver-Brunt her maiden Blaze wicket.
When Sophia Dunkley was bowled playing around a straight one from Glenn in the 7th, the Stars were 48 for 4 and looked in trouble.
But a 68-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Phoebe Franklin (53) and Kira Chathli (24) led the recovery, before a late flourish of 24 off 13 from Davidson-Richards propelled their total to 160 for 8.
It proved enough to make the game exciting, but not quite enough to seal a win.