Date: August 28, 2019
Venue: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Merriam-Webster defines hangover as ‘something (such as a surviving custom) that remains from what is past’. The United Kingdom would largely have it from Ben Stokes’ heroics in the third Ashes Test – a sporting hangover that is.
In a city in Northern Yorkshire, York, where few turned out to watch the Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL) match between Yorkshire Diamonds and Southern Vipers on Sunday (August 25), and a few others who would have covered the game, the hangover would be from a young Jemimah Rodrigues' ton. The middle-order Diamonds batter smashed the fastest ton in the history of the tournament, becoming only the second Indian after Smriti Mandhana to hit a century in the competition, en route to taking her side over the line in the highest successful chase in the history of WCSL.
And to say the least, Mandhana had told Rodrigues: "You will love batting there, Jemi!"
On Wednesday (August 28), both these players would be in opposite dugouts. While it would be Rodrigues’ final game in the tournament, Mandhana would have another chance as Storm have qualified for finals day while Diamonds haven’t. The Cooper Associates County Ground in Taunton will witness what is the penultimate match of the league stage of the final season of the WCSL.
Diamonds have been late bloomers. They had just one win from their first five games. And now, in the last four matches, they have come up victorious in three of them. In fact, they needed a bonus point win in each of the last two matches to qualify for finals day but it wasn’t to be. Though they defeated Vipers in their previous match, it was just a normal win and not by a big margin.
Rodrigues, with a ton in the last match and a fifty to go with it has been at the forefront of the last few matches. After she failed to carry Diamonds over the line in their first clash against Vipers, she ensured that she finished the job in the previous match. This, despite Diamonds not getting the best of starts with the bat.
Lauren Winfield, the captain, has been out of form after her lone fifty early this season. Alyssa Healy has largely blown hot and cold, before extending her stay in the middle in the last two games. It will be interesting to see whether Diamonds have any demons of their last match against Storm haunting them when they take field in Taunton.
Western Storm have played as per script, if there was any. They were touted to be one of the &t=1s">forces to reckon with and nine wins on the go have added weights to &t=4s">those talks. This final league stage outing would be another game where the side would look to strut their stuff.
Theirs has been a team where one or two players have stepped up if a couple of big guns failed. On days when Smriti Mandhana hasn’t fired, Rachel Priest has taken the mantle. And then Heather Knight has always been there and thereabouts ensuring her team puts up the total that it desires or hunts them down when needed, in the company of Fran Wilson.
Freya Davies has been the standout performer with the ball, with the likes of Claire Nicholas and Anya Shrubsole not far away. So, it is a well-oiled machine, which would look to simply repeat its daily routine.
However, if the Diamonds manage to upstage Storm, the viewers in Taunton would probably have another hangover. One that perhaps even lemon cannot cure.
It has been an unusual time for Shrubsole of late. She was England’s leading wicket-taker in the ODI series of the multi-format Ashes, before going wicketless in the two T20Is she played later. And then, this WCSL didn’t really have a desirable beginning for her, picking up just two wickets in the first four matches, missing the first match as well.
Currently, she has 11 wickets to show, joint-third in the list with Storm’s Claire Nicholas. In the last four matches, she has bagged nine wickets. These are signs that she is getting back into the groove. What helps her case is that Storm’s bowling isn’t entirely reliant on her and that takes pressure off her. Her performances reflect that.
Shrubsole had taken six wickets in an ODI against India in 2017. It wasn’t any other game. It was the final of the Women’s World Cup, 2017. It said that she has the ability to step up in the big matches. This is the last league game of the final WCSL season. Heading into the last match before finals day, Storm couldn’t have a better bowler than Shrubsole to look to.
Called in to bowl as the fifth bowler, she takes three wickets. Give her the new ball and she returns with a four-fer. Kasperek has had such a clout this season that even well-set batters are wary of taking her on. She has nine wickets to show in the season so far and looks good to add more in her final WCSL match.
With Storm having many an explosive batter in the side, Kasperek’s performance would matter more for Diamonds. Having said that, in her previous outing against the home side, she was carted for 19 in her two overs. With chances of rain high in the match, Kasperek and her slow off-spinners will be tough to go after.
“Rain, rain go away. Come again another day…” It won’t be a surprise if the entire Western Storm unit will be singing this song in unison. For, they would have done well to know how rain affected Surrey Stars. The defending champions had won two out of two games before a washout brought their campaign to a grinding halt - something that saw them fall out of contention for a top-three finish.
At this stage of the competition, the loss-less Storm wouldn’t want anything to affect their momentum. Taunton has about 50% chances of rain in the evening. This is the first day-night game at this venue in 2019. The two matches so far on this ground have been reasonably close encounters, with Storm coming out on top on both occasions. With a rain-curtailed game in the offing, expect the team winning the toss to insert the opposition in.
Western Storm: Heather Knight (c), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Freya Davies, Dani Gibson, Ellie Mitchell, Claire Nicholas, Sophie Luff, Naomi Dattani, Amara Carr, Sonia Odedra, Alex Griffiths, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Deepti Sharma.
Yorkshire Diamonds: Lauren Winfield (c), Katherine Brunt, Alice Davidson-Richards, Katie George, Linsey Smith, Hollie Armitage, Georgia Davis, Helen Fenby, Cordelia Griffith, Bess Heath, Beth Langston, Katie Levick, Alyssa Healy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Leigh Kasperek.