Heather Knight played an important role in Western Storm's victory over Loughborough. ©Getty Images

Western Storm have cemented its spot at the top of the table by triumphing over Lancashire Thunder by 77 runs to register a bonus point win.

Lancashire Thunder won the toss and elected to field, putting in Western Storm to bat. The decision paid off initially with Sophie Ecclestone making an early breakthrough for her side, dismissing Storm opener Rachel Priest in the first over, for only four runs. From there, however, the Smriti Mandhana special continued. She, alongside her captain, Heather Knight whacked the bowlers to all corners of the park so, by the end of the Powerplay, Storm were on top at 51-1.

In the 8th over, Alex Hartley made the breakthrough for Thunder by claiming the scalp of Mandhana, who was dismissed for 49 off 25 deliveries. Knight though continued to accelerate and was supported by West Indian international, Stafanie Taylor on the other added. The two added a further 102 runs for the third wicket before Knight was finally dismissed by Kate Cross in the 19th over after a brilliant knock of 76 runs off 50 balls. Taylor’s score of 51* off 37, including a six off the last ball of innings guided her team to a daunting total of 185-4.

Chasing such a big total, Thunder needed to accelerate from the get-go. But, it was unable to do so and the batters struggled to keep their wickets, which fell at regular intervals. At the halfway mark, Thunder was on 56-4 with Emma Lamb (11 off 15) and their top-scorer, Ellie Threlkeld (33 off 32) at the crease. The 35 run partnership between these two was the highest partnership in their innings. Once the wicket of Threlkeld fell, a storm hit and Thunder collapsed from 98-6 to 109 all out in the 19th over.

Claire Nicholas did the bulk of the damage for Storm, ripping apart Thunder’s top-order and claiming three wickets while conceding just 11 runs from her three overs. Stafanie Taylor bagged two wickets as well, with Freya Davies, Heather Knight, Naomi Dattani and Danielle Gibson chipping in with one each to help their team to a 77 run win.

Western Storm now sits comfortably at the top of the table with a five-point lead above Loughborough Lightning, who occupy second place. Surrey Stars have made their way into the top three as their win against Lightning and Thunders’ defeat to Storm means the Stars’ now have a three-point lead over Thunder, who falls to fourth place. Vipers’ find themselves at number five, while the Diamonds’ are at the bottom of the table.

Western Storm also become the first team to qualify for the finals day.