Southern Vipers celebrate the win over Yorkshire Diamonds. ©Southern Vipers/Twitter

New Zealand has played 116 T20Is. Suzie Bates has played 111 of those – easily the most. She has scored the most T20I runs as well. To cut the long story short, she has the experience – something that can’t be bought in the shop around the corner.

With six runs to defend in the final over, she ran in. Jemimah Rodrigues, the Yorkshire Diamonds batter, was unbeaten on 32. Off the second ball of the last over, a full-length ball was hurled in line of the stumps. For all her promise, Rodrigues is still a work in progress. She made room to exploit the cover region. Ended up missing the ball completely, and got her stumps rearranged.

Bates ensured that the next four balls didn’t go for too many. She knew a thing or two about a new batter taking strike in the final over of a run-chase. After all, she has played 111 T20Is for New Zealand alone, and many more at the domestic level. Her plans were clear, her method simple and she knew the pressure was on the batters – after all, they had everything to lose.

Bates’ last-over heroics with the ball ensured that Vipers defeated Diamonds by a margin of just three runs at the Rose Bowl in Southampton in the 21st match of the last edition of the Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL) on Wednesday (August 21).

Diamonds weren’t chasing a humongous total by any means. Their bowlers’ good work meant that they had to surpass only 127.

Alyssa Healy began well for them, hitting two fours. However, a yes-no call with Lauren Winfield coupled with a direct hit at the non-striker’s end by Danielle Wyatt meant that she had to depart. Once again, her brief stay (seven-ball 11) looked promising.

Hollie Armitage then added 48 runs with captain Winfield, before both of them departed in the space of 23 runs. Winfield scored 23 off 26, while Armitage hit 34 runs off 38 balls. Even though Diamonds were 83 for 3 in the 14th over, the chase appeared to be well under control. At that stage, they needed a further 44 runs for victory.

Rodrigues was batting cleverly at that point. Never did she aim to hit big and finish the game in a hurry. After all, she was coming on the back of a match-winning knock. Alongside Alice Davidson-Richards, she kept the scoreboard ticking, registering the odd boundary along the way.

The 16th over of the Diamonds’ innings seemed to have sealed the deal in their favour as Rodrigues crunched a couple of fours off Amanda Wellington, the Australian leg-spinner. 14 runs had come off it and the equation had been reduced to 26 off the last four overs.

The tide had truly turned and it seemed a matter of when Winfield’s team would win, and not how – considering Diamonds needed only 12 off the last 12 balls. However, Davidson-Richards’ ill-advised attempt at a swanky reverse sweep off pacer Tash Farrant saw her end. She ended up spooning a catch to Lauren Bell at short third. As a result, only five runs could be scored off the penultimate over.

Seven needed off six balls then.

Once Bates saw the back of Rodrigues, she knew she was the puppeteer. Katie George swung at and missed a couple and the pressure continued to mount. Eventually, the right-arm pacer, finished with 2 for 27 off her quota, sealing a nerve-wracking win for the team in orange.

Game. Set. Match.

Earlier in the day, things weren’t all that rosy for Vipers at the halfway stage.

Choosing to bat, they would have been happy with their flying start, courtesy (again) Wyatt. Beth Langston bore the brunt of her power-hitting, as she was taken for 20 in her first two overs. The fourth over, bowled by Linsey Smith, was hammered by Wyatt, who took 15 off it.

Some more boundaries followed and just like that, Southern Vipers were 62/0 at the end of the powerplay. But nothing shows Wyatt’s bullish knock better than this – at that point, she was on 49 off just 21, while her partner, the largely sedate and out-of-form Bates, was sitting on nine off 15 balls.

Soon, the Kiwi was to depart, stumped by Alyssa Healy without adding another run. Tammy Beaumont, too, couldn’t do much apart from consuming deliveries as she walked back for one off nine balls.

In the interim, though, Wyatt did what none of the other batters had done before. She registered a 22-ball half-century to become the first player to have four scores of fifty or more in a single edition of the WCSL. To top it off, she also became the first player to register three consecutive scores over 50 in the competition.

However, in the absence of support at the other end, Wyatt had to take extra risk to lift the run rate – and effort that led to her downfall. Katie Levick, the leg-spinner, flighted one up on the stumps and Wyatt’s attempted slog, that was mistimed, found Smith at mid-wicket. The Vipers’ opener was walking back – furious of course – for 59 off just 30 balls with seven fours and three sixes.

The batters who then followed seemed to be given a different surface altogether, struggling to find their timing or turn over the strike. For the next 47 balls Vipers managed only one boundary, sticking instead to singles as Diamonds choked their progress.

Finally in the penultimate over, Paige Scholfield managed to hit two fours in a row – a flick first up that bisected deep square leg and mid-wicket, and another over short fine-leg.

Leigh Kasperek, who had figures of 3-0-13-1 at that point, bowled a three-run final over, that was also accompanied by three wickets – one of them included a backward-running stunning catch with a dive at covers by Rodrigues to get rid of Scholfield. The Kiwi off-spinner finished with 4-0-16-4.

The sorry state of Vipers’ batting can be summed up by the fact that apart from Wyatt and Scholfield, only Thea Brookes had a double-digit score.

Diamonds’ capitulation at the end, though, was sorrier.

They are to blame if you lost your fingernails.

 

Brief Scores: Southern Vipers 127/9 in 20 overs (Danielle Wyatt 59; Leigh Kasperek 4/16) beat Yorkshire Diamonds 124/5 in 20 overs (Hollie Armitage 34, Jemimah Rodrigues 32; Suzie Bates 2/27) by three runs.