Sunrisers continued their winless start to the 2023 Charlotte Edwards Cup with a four-wicket defeat to local rivals South East Stars – a disappointing end to their first ever fixture at Lord’s.
Set a target of 133, Stars looked to be cruising along, adding 61 runs in the powerplay. Bryony Smith continued her form from Tuesday’s match against Vipers (when she struck 83), while Alice Capsey made an exhilarating return to the side, smashing 24 from 10 balls including some glorious aerial drives.
The pair added 30 runs in just 2 overs, but Capsey was out in the seventh, falling to a very good catch from Mady Villiers, diving forwards at long on.
Smith survived a couple of difficult caught-and-bowled chances from Villiers and Abtaha Maqsood to reach 38 from 27, finally holing out to deep midwicket in the 12th.
Stars continued to lose wickets at the back end, including two in the 16th over to Grace Scrivens, who appeared very much to be directing on-field proceedings, having regular conversations with Dane van Niekerk between balls.
But a calm innings from Phoebe Franklin (30 off 36), and a final boundary punched hard through point by Kira Chathli, finished the job with an over to spare.
Sunrisers had rejigged their batting line-up after defeat to Central Sparks at Chelmsford a week ago, with van Niekerk making her long-waited debut for the side, while Villiers was promoted to open alongside the South African.
The pair added 32 for the first wicket – though van Niekerk was put down twice in Phoebe Franklin’s opening over – but could not build enough of a platform to take Sunrisers to a winning total.
Paige Scholfield made the initial breakthrough in the fifth over, as van Niekerk’s wild swing found air and she was bowled, before Villiers bottom-edged onto her own stumps two overs later.
Sunrisers then sunk from 40 for 2 to 64 for 6, thanks partly to some atrocious running between the wickets. Scrivens was undone by a poor call from Cordelia Griffith and a piece of good fortune – Chathli fumbled the throw-in from Bryony Smith at midwicket, but the ball ricocheted off her foot and dislodged the bails anyway.
Griffith was then involved in an extraordinary mix-up with Amara Carr, which saw the two batters almost collide halfway down the wicket. Carr had to make an emergency diversion around Griffith, and was run out at the non-strikers end.
An unsettled-looking Griffith holed out to Tash Farrant at deep square leg two overs later.
It looked like humiliation for Sunrisers, until Jo Gardner and Eva Gray ensured their team at least made a decent fist of it, with a partnership of 48 for the seventh wicket, which lifted the home side above 100.
But Gardner ultimately became the third run-out victim of the innings, coming down the track from the non-strikers end while Gray remained firmly in her crease.
Sunrisers have work to do before their bottom-of-the-table clash against Thunder on Saturday.
I enjoyed the game though. Sunrisers are an improving team that are notably better than the last few years. A few good pieces of recruitment have served them well and with a bit more confidence and better fielding, I feel they’re now just being held back by a bit of inexperience. For example in this game – the run out (Griffith/Carr) where the two runners were both guilty of a bit of ball watching and nearly collided, delaying getting back in time. It was not a good look. And there was a very expensive over from Castle that wasn’t needed I thought, they should have stuck with spin. Apart from Scrivens’ brilliance, Mady Villiers and Eva Gray are very exciting players regularly in the runs or wickets, or both. Gray really helped Sunrisers get to a respectable total.
Let’s face it as well, Stars desperately needed to win as they’re under pressure to qualify after a couple of early losses. Capsey changed the game when she came in but I felt could have had a quick look at Maqsood, before trying to hit her out the park, and getting caught on the boundary. Phoebe Franklin has played well so far this CE Cup, and her composed innings here did a lot to see Stars over the line.