Mignon du Preez in action for Loughborough Lightning. ©Getty Images

Loughborough Lightning booked their place in finals day with a five-wicket victory over Surrey Stars at Haslegrave ground in Loughborough on Friday (August 23). At the start of the tournament, Lightning wasn’t fancied to cause a team like Stars problems. They did today just as they had at Guildford. The bowling upfront halted Stars’ run-scorers, before Chamari Atapattu and Mignon du Preez propelled Lightning to the finish line with nine balls to spare.

At the start of the day, Stars recovered from a slow start to post 147 for 6, centering on a partnership of 87 runs from 59 balls between Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver.

Lizelle Lee who gave Lightning’s bowlers nightmares on finals day last year was lbw to the first ball of the match. Kathryn Bryce who has bowled so well this season pinned the South African on her crease. It still took a prolonged appeal for the umpire, Neil Pratt, to raise the finger but Lightning’s question was finally answered with a nod.

Dane van Niekerk who was once a member of the Lightning side found the bowling of Bryce difficult to get away. In the third over a wide was the only scoring shot.

Taylor, though, started to find the spaces behind square with a combination of paddle and reverse sweeps she finally started to get the scoreboard ticking along.

Stars finished the power play on 29 for 2 after van Niekerk departed to a full delivery from Jenny Gunn. She was bowled for 11. It meant Sciver would need to be near her best if  the defending champions were going to post something competitive.

As they have done for England in the past, Sciver and Taylor used their differing styles to good effect. Taylor with deft touches and Sciver looking to free her hands.

From 15 balls, Sciver scored seven fours. The Stars were unexpectedly in the ascendancy and Lightning was searching for ways to get the two batters out.

It justified Sciver’s decision to bat first. On a pitch that had a green tinge to the top, it would have been no surprise if Stars had chosen to bowl with the ever-reliable Marizanne Kapp in the side.

Sciver was scoring at the quicker rate and was the sort of innings she likes to play given the extra responsibility. She took just 31 balls to bring up her fifty. Four balls later though she attempted to hit Georgia Elwiss over cover and the ball only ballooned over the shoulder of Lucy Higham who took a comfortable catch.

While Taylor was in the middle Stars were capable of going past 160. However, she didn’t last much longer than Sciver, falling to Bryce in the 17th over. It was a case of fifty and out as the ball after Taylor struck her fifty she was bowled by the medium pacer.

Stars could only muster 35 from their last five overs while also losing five wickets. Bryony Smith had a licence to hit and she scored three fours from her nine balls but fell to a Gunn slower ball for 14.

The chase did not start well for Lightning as they lost Amy Jones in the first over. She was halfway down the track when Matthews saw Jones running at her and sent her back.

What did not help Lightning’s cause was a maiden from Marizanne Kapp in the second over. Atapattu has struggled all season to get going, and Friday was the first time she was hitting it off the square since the game at Headingley where she scored a 39-ball 40.

Matthews has also struggled for most of the season. She too looked back to her best hitting three fours from Kapp’s second over. However, soon enough she became one of two stumping victims for Taylor to give Maddy Villers her only wicket of the day.

Atapattu started to find the boundary on a regular basis and hit the first six of the game, smacking Laura Marsh over long-on. Finally, Atapattu was in the groove and was on course for fifty when she was bowled prodding at a Marsh delivery that gripped and passed the defence of the Sri Lankan for 34.

There was no need for panic, however, as du Preez carried on her fine form. The South African took a liking to Marsh. From the off-spinner, she hit three of her four sixes. The South African’s innings of 48 were smashed from just 25 balls to show that there is more to the batter’s game than just quick running and hitting the gaps.

 

Brief Scores: Surrey Stars 147/7 in 20 overs (Natalie Sciver 53, Alyssa Healy 51; Jenny Gunn 2-19, Kathryn Bryce 2-21) lost to Loughborough Lightning 150/5 in 18.3 overs (Mignon du Preez 48*, Chamari Atapattu 43) by five-wickets.