Contrasting batting displays and dropped catches were on show in Bristol as Western Storm steamrolled Loughborough Lightning by 40 runs to assert themselves firmly on top of the table on Tuesday (August 13) in the eleventh match of the final season of the Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL).
Having chosen to chase, Lightning’s batters knew the target they had in front of them – 159 in 20 overs on a slowing track. Once Freya Davies trapped Hayley Matthews – Lightning’s match-winner from their previous outing – plumb in front, the other batters seem resigned.
What then followed was a series of dropped catches. Amy Jones was the beneficiary, getting two lives in a single Davies over. First, a drive-enticing delivery was edged and a regulation diving catch was shelled by Rachel Priest, the wicketkeeper. She would have taken it nine times out of ten. Three balls later, Anya Shrubsole was the culprit, dropping an absolute sitter.
At the point, it seemed as if it was Lightning’s day. However, Clare Nicholas, earmarked as the player to watch before the game, flummoxed Chamari Atapattu (4 from 12 balls), who yorked herself in a bid to give her the charge. Soon Jones was to go back to the dugout, courtesy a misjudged attempt for a single.
After Georgia Elwiss’ fall to her opposite number, there began a saga of Storm dropping catches every single over or two. Mignon du Preez, Georgia Adams, Jenny Gunn all had lives handed to them after they offered catches on a platter to fielders like Nicholas and Fran Wilson. The latter – who had a good couple of games with the bat – had a forgettable day on the field.
Davies’ finished the game with figures of 4 for 27 – her best in the WCSL. She was ably supported by spinners like Heather Knight, Nicholas and Deepti Sharma. That du Preez’s 24-ball 30 ended up being the top-score of the innings tells a story in itself.
The slow track seemed to have consumed Lightning. But when the game begain, openers Priest and Smriti Mandhana made it appear as though they had a flat track laid out for them. They quickly raced to 47 inside the power play before the latter fell for a 17-ball 29. Her innings was laced with six fours.
Even as Knight joined her in the middle, Priest was going strong at the other end. The Kiwi didn’t feel the need to take the aerial route as she notched up her fifty off just 40 balls. It was her fifth WCSL fifty and the first in 2019.
However, she could add just five more runs after that as she was caught in the deep off Matthews, trying to take the aerial route for the first time. Priest made 55 in 43 balls with eight fours. While she was there in the middle with Knight, they added 64 runs for the second wicket – they kept the run rate hovering around the eight an over mark.
Priests wicket was soon followed by that of Wilson. Although Knight held one end up, the other was open for regular strikes and Gunn and Elwiss quite happily slowed down Storm’s progress. Soon Knight was out to a stunner taken by Adams. She went for 45 off 37 balls – after being on course for yet another half century – with three fours and a six.
The skipper’s fall meant that Storm didn’t get the right impetus to end the innings. They could just muster 38 runs for the loss of two wickets in the last five overs. At that point it seemed as if a start was squandered but it wasn’t to be. Storm had got enough.
Brief Scores: Western Storm 158/4 in 20 overs (Rachel Priest 55, Heather Knight 45; Jenny Gunn 1/22) beat Loughborough Lightning 118 all out in 18.2 overs (Mignon du Preez 30; Freya Davies 4/27) by 40 runs.