Heather Knight, Katherine Brunt star as England players fare well on the opening day of Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

@ Women's CricZone

Heather Knight started from where she left off at the T20 World Cup in February-March with an unbeaten 99-ball 91 while pacer Katherine Brunt shook off her rustiness with a brilliant spell of 5 for 20 as of the England stars fared well for their respective teams on the opening day of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy on August 29 (Saturday).

While Northern Diamonds got the better of Central Sparks, Southern Vipers and Western Storm defeated Sunrisers and South East Stars respectively. Thunder beat Lightning via the Duckworth Lewis Stern method after rain had stopped play for close to 15 minutes.

Central Sparks vs Northern Diamonds

Skipper Lauren Winfield (72) and Hollie Armitage (54 not out) forged a 139-run opening wicket partnership to steer Northern Diamonds to the first win of the tournament in Birmingham. Chasing Sparks’ 145, the duo scored at close to six runs an over as Winfield took charge hitting regular boundaries while Armitage played a perfect second fiddle.

The skipper was particularly harsh on Anisha Patel hitting the leg-spinner for two sixes and a four in the 22nd over. Although Winfield perished in the next over bowled by Clare Boycott, Armitage and Natalie Sciver took Diamonds home in 24.1 overs with nine wickets in hand.

Earlier, it was Brunt’s day out. With England’s home series against the West Indies coming up next month, the right-arm pacer couldn’t have asked for better preparation. She broke the deadlock dismissing skipper Evelyn Jones caught behind for just 15 before ripping through the lower order to restrict Central Sparks six runs short of 150. Beth Langston also chipped in with a couple of wickets for 30 runs.

Opting to bat first, Sparks made a steady start reaching 44 for 2 in 10 overs. The departure of Gwenan Davies, run out for 33 in the 24th over, triggered the collapse as the Sparks lost their last six wickets for just 36 runs to be all out for 144 in 38.1 overs. Sarah Glenn tried her bit with a 43-ball 23 but that wasn’t enough to get her team out of trouble.

Sunrisers vs Southern Vipers

Danielle Wyatt was at her attacking best. © Southern Vipers/Twitter

England opener Danielle Wyatt headlined Vipers’ chase with a 73-ball 66 as useful contributions from skipper Georgia Adams (37) and Maia Bouchier (33) helped them to open their account on a winning note at Chelmsford. Chasing 203 for victory, the Vipers overhauled the target in 36.2 overs with seven wickets in hand.

Earlier, Mady Villiers (64) and Naomi Dattani (42) accounted for half of the team’s total as six Sunrisers batters could manage just single digits. With Katie Midwood (six), skipper Amara Carr (four) and Fran Wilson (11) all back in the hut with just 30 on board in the 10th over, it was all left to Dattani and Villiers to save the sinking ship. And they did that very well, forging a vital 92-run fourth-wicket partnership.

The left-hand right-hand combination frustrated the Southern Vipers bowlers picking regular ones and twos and hitting occasional boundaries. Dattani was caught plumb in front of the bowling off Wyatt but the 22-year-old Villiers held onto one end to steer her team towards the 200-run mark. Sunrisers finished at 202 all out in 46.1 overs. Paige Scholfield (3-33) and Charlotte Dean (2-47) bowled well for Vipers.

Lightning vs Thunder

Chasing just over four runs an over, Lightning were on course for an easy victory reaching 119 for 4 in 31 overs with Sarah Bryce leading the charge with a 69-ball 52, before rain gods opened up and halted the match for quite some time. When play resumed, the Kathryn Bryce-led side needed 32 runs from 30 balls. However, three wickets in the 34th over bowled by Alex Hartley (2-35), which included a run out, turned the tables in favour of Thunder. With 11 runs needed in the final over, there was still a chance for Lightning, but Sophie Ecclestone (2 for 29) clean bowled Nancy Harman and Sophie Munro was run out, as Lightning fell four runs short in Nottingham.

Earlier, Sophie Ecclestone (60 not out, 61b, 6×4, 2×6) and Eleanor Threlkeld (52, 82b, 5×4) hit half-centuries to take Thunder to a respectable total. After a dreadful start, losing their top three with just 31 on board, Threlkeld and Natalie Brown (38) steadied the ship before Ecclestone joined the wicketkeeper-batter to take the innings forward. Although Threlkeld was dismissed in the 36th over, Ecclestone carried her bat till the end to help Thunder to 206 for 9 in 50 overs. Sophie Munro (3 for 32) and Lucy Higham (2 for 50) shined with the ball for Lightning.

South East Stars vs Western Storm

Heather Knight scored her career best 96. ©Western Storm Heather Knight started from where she had left in the T20 World Cup. ©Western Storm

Playing a competitive game for the first time in almost five months, Knight was at ease throughout as she took on the Stars bowlers with a majestic unbeaten knock to hand Storm their maiden win. Chasing a below-par total, the England skipper single-handedly took the match away from the Stars dishing some of the best shots from her armoury. Sophia Dunkley (1 for 27), Tash Farrant (1 for 29) and Bryony Smith (1 for 11) gave Storm a scare picking up three quick wickets but that didn’t deter Knight at all she carried her team to victory.

Earlier, Storm made most use of the overcast conditions removing half of the South East Stars with just 55 runs on board in 20 overs. Seamer Georgia Hennessy (4 for 31) did most of the damage. Opener Smith was the first to depart for just five runs before Alice Capsey (13), who had a nice run in the London Championship, awarded Hennessy her first for the day.

England international Dunkley was the next one to go off the bowling of Claire Nicholas (1/34). Alice Davidson-Richards (six) and highly-regarded Aylish Cranstone (14) too perished soon, both falling to Hennessy, leaving the Tash Farrant-led side in tatters.

Susie Rowe and Hannah Jones (16) offered some resistance with a 47-run sixth-wicket partnership but the departure of the latter, clean bowled by Fi Morris (3 for 36), disrupted the momentum. Rowe didn’t last much longer, giving a simple return catch to Morris for well-made 44-ball 38. Skipper Farrant hung on towards the end of the innings with a gutsy 58-ball 37, leading Stars to 166 all out in 48.1 overs.

Brief Scores

Central Sparks 144 in 38.1 overs (Gwenan Davies 33; Katherine Brunt 5/20) lost to Northern Diamonds 145/1 in 24.1 overs (Lauren Winfield 72, Hollie Armitage 54*) by nine wickets.

Sunrisers 202 in 48.1 overs (Mady Villiers 64, Naomi Dattani 42; Paige Scholfield 3/33) lost to Southern Vipers 208/3 in 36.2 overs (Danielle Wyatt 66) by seven wickets.  

Thunder 206/9 in 50 overs (Sophie Ecclestone 60*, Eleanor Threlkeld 52; Sophie Munro 3/32) beat Lightning 146 all out in 35.5 overs (Sarah Bryce 52; Alex Hartley 2/35, Sophie Ecclestone 2/29) by four runs via DLS method.

South East Stars 166 in 48.1 overs (Susie Rowe 38; Georgia Hennessy 4/31, Fi Morris 3/36) lost to Western Storm 167/ 4 in 39.5 overs (Heather Knight 91*; Bryony Smith 1/11) by six wickets.