Amy Jones’ majestic unbeaten 74 and a disciplined effort from the bowlers headlined Loughborough Lightning’s 36-run victory over Southern Vipers at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Wednesday (August 28). In their last league match of the season— and what was a dress rehearsal for finals day— the visitors carried their winning momentum, extending their streak to six in a row.
Having lost the toss on a cloudy day, Lightning got off to a wonderful start with the bat. Chamari Atapattu, who largely struggled at the beginning of the tournament, looked to have finally found her rhythm, kicking off the innings with a crashing cover drive off Tash Farrant.
In the company of Jones, the left-hander added 75 runs for the first wicket. She tonked four fours and a powerful slog sweep for six before she was cleaned up by Suzie Bates for a 27-ball 35.
It was a wicket that, for a while, saw Vipers snatch back the momentum. Through the course of the next three overs, the hosts only conceded nine runs while also picking up the wicket of an in-form Georgia Adams. She was dismissed by Issy Wong, the 17-year-old seamer from Warwickshire, who bowled with good pace, often pushing the speed gun past the 70 mph mark.
However, in the 14th over of the innings Jones and Georgia Elwiss chose to put their foot down. The pair carted Wong for 15 runs off her third over, and followed it up with two more 10-run overs off Fi Morris and Farrant.
As Lightning notched up their 150, Jones too had registered a milestone of her own— a second consecutive half-century in the 2019 edition of the Women’s Cricket Super League, and her third for the season.
Once again, Vipers forced their way back into the match thanks to some brilliance in the field. Amanda Wellington, who had bowled with great control, first had Elwiss smartly caught at cover-point by Paige Scholfield, and then removed Mignon du Preez off her first ball— a full delivery that skidded on and trapped the South African plumb in front.
All of a sudden, Lightning found themselves at 125 for 4 in 16.5 overs needing a huge finish to post a competitive total on a surface that appeared to suit the batters. Right on cue, Jones exploded in the following three overs as Lightning collected 38 runs. During this period, she smashed three fours and six to finish unbeaten on a brilliantly constructed 74 off 53 balls, including seven fours and three sixes.
The visitors finished with a competitive total of 163 for 4 in 20 overs, with Wellington taking 2 for 22.
Coming in to the match, Danielle Wyatt looked to have hit peak form with three consecutive scores of more than 50 and a 42 to boot. In a tricky chase, Vipers needed her to come out all guns blazing, but she was dismissed in the very first over by Atapattu. Trying to carve a short and wide delivery from the off-spinner past point, Wyatt only managed to guide it straight into the hands of Kirstie Gordon.
Bates attempted to counter attack, but she danced down the track once too often and was brilliantly stumped by Jones off Jenny Gunn. It was a fantastic bit of work from the wicket-keeper, who moved down the leg-side, stayed low, held her position and quickly whipped off the bails before Bates could even turn around.
Following the New Zealander’s dismissal, Vipers kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Until the fall of the seventh wicket, the hosts were unable to stitch together a partnership worth more than 19 runs.
Lightning’s bowlers kept a tight leash on the scoring— attacking the stumps, varying their pace and keeping the ball out of the batters’ range. It was a tactic that saw most of the batters fall to shots played in desperation to find the fence.
Aside from Bates who managed a score of 20, only Morris showed some fight in the lower-order, collecting 36 off 31 balls as Vipers stuttered to 127 all out in 19 overs.
For Lightning, Atapattu was their most successful bowler, finishing with figures of 3 for 18, while Kirstie Gordon also had exceptional figures of 2 for 18.
Despite their third loss in five matches, Vipers will go into finals day knowing they have nothing to lose. Both teams will clash again in the first knockout round of finals day at Hove on Sunday (September 1).
Brief Scores: Loughborough Lightning 163/4 in 20 overs (Amy Jones 74*, Chamari Atapattu 35; Amanda Wellington 2-22) beat Southern Vipers 127 in 19 overs (Fi Morris 36, Suzie Bates 20; C Atapattu 3-18, Kirstie Gordon 2-18) by 36 runs.