Welsh Fire emerged victorious by three wickets in a thrilling encounter over the two-time champions Oval Invincibles in The Hundred. The win was largely thanks to a remarkable performance by Shabnim Ismail. The former South Africa pacer put on a masterclass with the ball and took three crucial wickets for a mere 12 runs from her four sets. This stellar display meant Fire sit firmly at the top of the table after three matches.
"I wanted to come out here and prove a point, we knew what exactly we needed to do on that pitch, I assessed it quickly in the morning and I just said to myself that it is a good wicket to bowl," Ismail told Sky Sports in between the innings.
Having won the toss, Fire decided to bowl first and the veteran speedster immediately made a mark in the second set as she troubled Suzie Bates with five dots in a row putting Invincibles on the backfoot from the start. Her next set saw the end of Bates’ struggles as she tried to paddle the ball over fine-leg only to see Ismail rattling the stumps.
“They have a strong top side so I just knew once I get one of their top order out it puts pressure on the rest of the batters coming in,” Ismail added.
The wicket that started the fire 🔥🔥— Women’s CricZone (@WomensCricZone) August 6, 2023
Shabnim Ismail was at her best for Welsh Firepic.twitter.com/xuGF2uKLPG
Ismail, who represented South Africa in 241 matches, continued to dominate with her pace as her fiery first ten balls gave that valuable wicket for only four runs. The home side started falling apart like a deck of cards courtesy of some great spells by Georgia Elwiss and Alex Griffiths.
With Invincibles reeling at 39 for 5, skipper Tammy Beaumont brought Ismail back to bowl the 12th set. And the feisty pacer with her stellar display of fast bowling got back-to-back wickets to put the home side in dire straits. She bowled an absolute beauty to dismiss Mady Villiers, an accurate fuller-length delivery that took the top of the middle stump. Then came Ryana MacDonald-Gay and Ismail greeted her with a cross-seam delivery and trapped her leg before the wicket.
Facing her former team, Ismail was right on the money from the first ball even as opener Lauren Winfield-Hill helplessly witnessed everything from the other end. Her spirited knock of 42 off 35 deliveries carried the score to 80.
During the chase, Marizanne Kapp wasted no time and dismissed Beaumont on the very first ball of Fire’s innings and then sent back Hayley Matthews, who was the match hero in Fire’s narrow win against Southern Brave, for a duck.
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Sophia Dunkley and Georgia Elwiss helped Fire resurrect the innings and sneak home by three wickets despite the mayhem created by Kapp. The South African allrounder picked up a valiant 4 for 18 as she matched her former bowling partner.
Coming back to The Oval albeit for the Welsh side, having moved there after the draft with Invincibles not choosing to retain her, Ismail said she was looking forward to doing well at her former home ground.
"100 percent thrilled, I summed up the wicket very well this morning, I knew there will be shape up there at The Oval and I just wanted to come up here and do well for the team," Ismail added after receiving the player of the match award. “Welsh has been really great towards me. Obviously, I am happy and chuffed that they got me in the team and I am thoroughly excited that we won today.”
Ismail prides on being the fierce competitor that she is. Always steaming in with the ball year after year - be it for Invincibles or for South Africa with fiery spells like the one against England in the home T20 World Cup semi-final in February before calling it a day from internationals in May.
"It (competitiveness) will always be there in my genes. Before I came out here I had a month to prepare and I told myself that I still want to be the professional outfit that I am and win games for the Welsh,” Ismail concluded.