Southern Vipers triumphed over South East Stars by 6 wickets to get their Charlotte Edwards Cup title defence off to a flier, in spite of a record-breaking first-wicket partnership of 134 between Bryony Smith (83) and Sophia Dunkley (53).
Vipers made easy work of the 170-run target set for them by Stars, with Charlie Dean (20*) hitting back-to-back boundaries against Phoebe Franklin to take them over the line with 7 balls to spare.
The game was hosted by Falkland Cricket Club in Newbury, making it the first ever professional cricket match to be hosted in the county of Berkshire.
Vipers have always played their home games in either Hampshire (Ageas Bowl) or Sussex (Hove), so it was nice to have a reminder that the regional side also incorporates Berkshire. A crowd of roughly 400, including 150 local schoolchildren, enjoyed the match from the boundary edge; and after Vipers sealed the win, home-grown bowler Lauren Bell was mobbed for autographs.
Vipers won the toss and opted to bowl first, but looked to be ruing their decision after a mammoth, dual onslaught from Smith and Dunkley. Smith looked the most comfortable of the two, enjoying delicious helpings on the leg-side, pulling Georgia Adams for back-to-back sixes over midwicket, and forcing Anya Shrubsole out of the attack in her first competitive game of the season, after her two overs went at 13.5.
Smith was put down on 51* by Linsey Smith, who dropped a skier running in from cover. In the end, only a messy run out in the 15th over, courtesy of a throw-in from Alice Monaghan on the deep midwicket boundary, prevented her from progressing on to a century.
Dunkley fell in the next over, stepping across her stumps to cut but succeeding only in sending a thick edge through to the keeper, allowing Vipers to stifle their opponents in the final few overs. The crowd particularly enjoyed the spectacle of local hero Bell finishing the innings with two wickets in the final over – bowling both Alice Davidson-Richards and Tash Farrant – although they were denied the hat-trick by a whisker, as the ball whistled over the stumps of Kira Chathli.
In reply, Maia Bouchier (30 from 18) got things underway with a glorious drive down the ground for four, as part of a wayward, 18-run opening over from Ryana Macdonald-Gay. Bouchier shared a 50-run opening stand with Danni Wyatt, but was run out in the 5th over after Wyatt called for a second run, chancing the arm of Paige Scholfield in the deep.
Vipers overseas wicketkeeper Nicole Faltum was caught by a diving Dunkley at cover off Freya Davies, while Wyatt herself chipped one up to backward point 10 runs short of a half-century.
But the platform had been laid, and with the target in relatively easy reach, Georgia Adams (29), Georgia Elwiss (28*) and Dean simply had to place the ball well, run hard, and watch the scoreboard tick along.