Deepti Sharma will be key as storm look to stay unbeaten. ©Getty Images

Deepti Sharma starred with bat and ball to give Western Storm their eighth consecutive win in the final edition of Women’s Cricket Super League defeating Surrey Stars by four runs at the County Ground in Taunton on Wednesday (August 21). The allrounder scored a valuable 26-ball 32 at no.6 before bagging 3 for 18 to help keep the 160-run target out of Stars’ reach.

With 20 runs required in the final two overs, Freya Davies bowled a good penultimate over giving away just nine runs. With 11 needed off the last over Anya Shrubsole dismissed Mady Villiers to give Storm the chance for victory. Eva Gray scored a boundary but failed to repeat the feat in the next ball as Shrubsole managed to keep Stars to a total of 155 for 8 – marginally short of the target.

Chasing 160 for victory, Stars promoted Dane van Niekerk to open with Lizelle Lee. The move, however, did not work, as the defending champions’ opening woes continued when Lee was dismissed by Claire Nicholas off the second ball of the innings. At the other end, van Niekerk followed her South African partner for another duck as Sharma struck in her first over.

Sarah Taylor quickly got into the groove, collecting three boundaries to put some pressure on Storm’s bowlers. Despite the late surge, Stars finished the power play on 28 for 2 – their lowest ever total in the first six overs.

Natalie Sciver and Taylor failed to lift the scoring rate as Storm bowled tight lines and did not give too many boundaries. The required run rate shot to 10 an over and something had to give. The pair decided to attack when Shrubsole came into the attack, carting her for 11 runs in her second over, to shift the momentum ever so slightly.

Taylor and Sciver brought their fifty run-stand in the 11th over and were looking set to accelerate. Their attacking play saw the equation reduced to 79 runs needed in 49 balls, but just when Sciver was looking set for a big haul she was out, allowing Storm back in to the game. It was Sharma again, with her second wicket of the day, proving her worth with the ball.

Meanwhile, Taylor brought up her half-century – a knock that kept Stars in the hunt. With 61 needed off the last six overs, Marizanne Kapp joined Taylor and the duo proceeded to lay into Storm’s bowlers. Kapp took some pressure off Taylor as she raced to 14 off just nine balls. The latter smoked another 12 runs off Shrubsole’s third over, and Stars had reduced the equation to 38 off 24 deliveries.

With Taylor seemingly having taken control of the chase, Heather Knight, in her final roll of the dice, threw the ball to Davies. The right-arm seamer, as has been her habit all season, struck the decisive blow, dismissing Taylor for a masterful 52-ball 73 – her highest score in the WCSL. In the following over, Sharma accounted for her third wicket of the evening, Kapp caught by Nicholas for another enterprising innings of 23 off 16 deliveries.

In the end, Storm held their nerve, as Davies and Shrubsole closed out what was a tricky end to their defence.

Earlier in the day, Stars won the toss and inserted Storm in, and immediately, the best opening duo of the tournament was in the act again. This time Racheal Priest started things off in style by clobbering Mady Villiers for 16 runs in the first over of the innings which included two sixes. The signs were ominous, but Kapp gave the defending champions something to cheer about, dismissing Smriti Mandhana for a five-ball duck.

Villiers certainly did not have best of days as Priest dispatched her for 28 runs – 4, 6, 4, 6, 6 – in her second over before she was dismissed by the off-spinner off the final ball of the fourth over. The right-hander walked off having scored a blistering 16-ball 44 – 42 runs of which she collected off the bowling of Villiers. Storm raced to fifty in just 32 balls and finished the power play on 53.

The departure of Priest brought Knight and Fran Wilson together – arguably the most consistent batters in this edition of the tournament. Although they kicked off their association on a promising note, van Niekerk brought it to a quick end removing Storm’s skipper for 13. Wilson soon followed Knight for 27 runs as Marsh struck for the first time in the 10th over.

Storm’s largely untested lower middle-order batters had quite a task on their hands to resurrect the innings. Sharma and Sophie Luff did exactly that, playing some smart cricket by mixing caution with aggression. Although overs no. 10-15 yielded only 35 runs, more importantly, Storm did not lose a wicket.

The duo brought up their fifty run stand and just when a total of 170 was looking possible Storm lost Luff for a well made 32 with 10 balls left. Sharma soon followed her partner and Sciver had three wickets in the 19th over to restrict the flurry of runs. Storm finished on 159 in their allotted 20 overs – they lost four wickets for five runs in the final 11 deliveries.

Sciver was the star with the bowl picking 3 for 37 well supported by van Niekerk and Kapp who picked up a wicket each.

 

Brief Scores: Western Storm 159/8 in 20 overs (Rachel Priest 44, Deepti Sharma 32, Sophie Luff 32; Natalie Sciver 3-37) beat Surrey Stars 155/8 in 20 overs (Sarah Taylor 73, Natalie Sciver 31; Deepti Sharma 3-18, Anya Shrubsole 2-34) by four runs.