The contrast in weather between Old Trafford on Tuesday (August 20) and Trent Bridge on Sunday (August 25) was striking. Long gone had the gloom of Old Trafford in the evening to be replaced by the bright blue sky of Trent Bridge. It brought in the crowds as well. There were just over 2,000 spectators in the ground at the start of play. However, despite all the differences, one thing stayed the same as Loughborough Lightning completely outplayed Lancashire Thunder. Coming in to the game, Kate Cross’ team were still looking for their first win, but they ran into a side in fine form. Lightning ran away with the game – winners by 8 wickets as Amy Jones hit an unbeaten 66 from 52 balls.
It was worth the wait for Jenny Gunn as she finally got the opportunity to grace the Trent Bridge pitch. She has played many times just over the road at the Lady Bay Ground, but on her first appearance at Trent Bridge she returned with figures of three for 14 to set the game up for the hosts.
Thunder had chosen to bat first – on a pitch that had been used this season – in the hope that their spin attack would come in to play in the second half of the game. This plan of attack also suited Lightning whose bowling attack have squeezed teams upfront before the batters then chased the total down down.
Kathryn Bryce, in her last game of the season, set the tone for Lightning bowling tight lines. Sune Luus was fortunate enough to face the only one that veered offline. She made sure to duly collect a boundary off it.
Thunder was scoring at under five an over before Sarah Glee came into the attack. The young leg-spinner set about making a mockery of the Thunder top order. She beat Tahlia McGrath with a ball that gripped and went straight on through her defences for five.
She had to wait a while for her second wicket as Jo Gardner was savaged by Sophia Dunkley who hit the last two balls of the power play for six and four. Suddenly it looked like Thunder were seizing the momentum. However, Gunn and Glenn were to combine to strike down Thunder’s middle-order.
As was the case on Tuesday, Luus was the batter who looked in wonderful touch for Thunder. Having motored to 27, she became Gunn’s first Trent Bridge wicket when she mistimed a lofted stroke and was caught by Georgia Adams in the deep.
At 48 for 2 in 8 overs, Thunder were desperate for a huge contribution from Harmanpreet Kaur. She had done it in the past before, but on Sunday, Glenn had other ideas. The leg-spinner fired one through, quick and fast, and Kaur, who had made room to guide the ball through the off-side was done for pace. She watched in horror as the ball crashed into leg-stump. The Indian T20I captain was gone for a first ball duck.
Dunkley, who has had a rough patch of form this season, took it into her hands to try and resurrect the innings. She was finding some confidence, striking the ball well – collecting two fours and two sixes on her way to 29. However, he tried to walk across her stumps one too many times, and Gunn cleaned up her leg stump.
Having slipped to 96 for 9 in the 17th over, it looked like the visitors would barely cross the 100-run mark. It wasn’t until the final Thunder pair of Natalie Brown (14) and Alex Hartley (12*), who added 26 from 22 balls, that ensured they had a relatively decent total on the board. Brown was run out in the final over, and Thunder had been dismissed for 122 in 19.5 overs.
With the imminent departure of Hayley Matthews – who is due to join the West Indies squad for the limited over series against Australia – Lightning decided to rejig their batting order. Where the Thunder top-order found it difficult to get going, the opening pair of Amy Jones and Chamari Atapattu quickly found their feet. The Sri Lankan, who has largely struggled through the tournament, seems to have found her form at the right time. Along with Jones, she shared a partnership worth 63 runs from 57 balls. With the required run-rate hovering at just above six an over it was the perfect start.
The departure of Atapattu for 26 – caught stunningly by Emma Lamb in her follow through – in the 10th over, brought the in-form Georgia Adams to the crease. The right-hander played a brief cameo of 11 from five balls pulling Lamb through mid-wicket for six off her second delivery. She would fall the next over hitting Hartley to cow corner where Dunkley was ready for the catch.
Jones carried on rotating the strike with Abbey Freeborn. She brought up a well deserved half-century off 44 balls. Lightning were playing the percentages and Thunder had no answers. Jones was stroking the ball around and chipping it over the infield to good effect. She peppered the leg-side boundary, but also opened up the off-side against the spinners thanks to some lovely footwork.
When Jones smashed Hartley for six over long-off, there were still 23 balls left. Lightning had cantered to an easy six-wicket win.
With Lightning giving some of the fringe players a go in this game they showed they have the depth to take on finals day at Hove next Sunday. However, before that, they face Southern Vipers in what could be a potential dress-rehearsal for the semi-final, on Wednesday (August 28).
Brief Scores: Lancashire Thunder 122 in 19.5 overs (Sophia Dunkley 29, Sune Luus 27; Jenny Gunn 3-14, Sarah Glenn 3-25) lost to Loughborough Lightning 123/2 in 16.1 overs (Amy Jones 66*, Chamari Atapattu 26) by eight wickets.