Hayley Matthews led Welsh Fire to a thrilling win to end Southern Brave’s juggernaut at home in The Hundred on Friday (August 4). The West Indies skipper performed magnificently with both bat and ball to help the Welsh side start and end the match on a high note.
Matthews hit an impressive 65 off 38 balls to drive Fire to their best total in the short history of the tournament. She also defended nine runs in the final set of the match against the set batter Smriti Mandhana to secure a win for her team.
“It is huge for sure, we spoke about not getting over the line where we got really close in games so it's definitely pretty special to go out there today in a pressure situation and kind of cap it off really well,” Matthews said after the match.
Matthews kicked off Fire's innings with a gleaming cover drive on the first ball she faced to start the proceedings in ‘The Hayley Matthews’ way. She then followed it up with another boundary in the second set, this time a different shot, an effortless whip past fine-leg.
Matthews has already stamped her authority on various international bowlers over the years, but she wanted The Rose Bowl crowd to witness it. With Anya Shrubsole bowling the third set, she decided to greet the Brave skipper with a flurry of boundaries. Three fours came in a span off five deliveries.
Regular boundaries forced Shrubsole to introduce her partnership-breaker Georgia Adams but Matthews was in no mood to relent, this time against the off-spinner. She carved an aesthetically pleasing shot for another four by manipulating the gap between the short third and backward point. Luck didn’t favour the Brave, but only added to the frustration when the homeside saw an outside edge off Matthews’ bat flying towards the boundary.
And in just 30 balls, the opening partnership between Matthews and captain Tammy Beaumont crossed the fifty mark. Then came Mary Taylor, the star with the ball in Brave’s opening match, the dynamic duo welcomed her with a 14 run-set, which included an exquisite punch over extra cover and a beautiful straight drive off Matthews’ blazing sword.
Matthews reached the half-century mark from a mere 26 deliveries. She opened the face of her bat and steered the ball towards the short third and this was the record-fastest fifty by any Welsh Fire batter.
Cover drives, straight drives, whips, punches, manipulating the field – Matthews’ innings had everything. Her extraordinary performance ended with the softest of dismissals when Matthews slapped the ball towards the bowler Chloe Tryon who completed a simple catch to end the match-winning knock.
Fire accumulated 165 on the board at the end of their 100 balls, thanks to Matthews along with contributions from Beaumont, Laura Harris, Sarah Bryce, and Georgia Elwiss.
Brave put up a valiant fight not wanting to give up their home, openers Danielle Wyatt and Smriti Mandhana scored half-centuries to keep them in the chase. However, some inspired bowling from Alex Griffiths saw the end of Wyatt with the batter top edging it right into the hands of Matthews, and apart from Mandhana other batters struggled to keep up the momentum.
With nine required from five deliveries, Matthews was given the responsibility to bowl the final set, and she did not disappoint. Bryce stumped Tryon off a wide on the very first ball, Then the off-spinner managed to keep the deliveries away from the two southpaws’ - Mandhana and Freya Kemp - hitting arc and Brave could only manage four runs from the remaining deliveries.
And Matthews broke into a celebration with her teammates.
There is no stopping the 25-year-old Matthews this year. Be it the MVP performance for Mumbai Indians in the WPL or scoring the most runs in T20Is in 2023. This performance that helped Fire breach Brave’s fortress at Southampton was another feather in her already stunning year.
“It was great, from the time we went out there, it was a pretty good wicket so we wanted a kind of big score. We knew they were going to come out pretty hard so we were really happy that we could get over the line in the end,” Matthews concluded after receiving the Player of the Match award.