Stafanie Taylor has been a big player for Vipers this season. © Southern Vipers/ Twitter

In a game that ebbed and flowed, slowed down then picked up pace, looked dead and buried and then suddenly burst back into life, Southern Vipers tied – by the absolute skin of their teeth – with Lancashire Thunder at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Thursday (August 15). Both teams, at different points in the game, were down and out, but they found heroes to pick them up and carry them forward.

For Thunder, those heroes were first Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, and finally Emma Lamb, while for Vipers, it was Stafanie Taylor, Maia Bouchier and Amanda Wellington.

It was Cross who set up the game for Thunder with both bat and ball. Her cameo at the back-end of the innings and 38-run partnership with Ecclestone gave her team something to bowl at, after which she came back and picked up two crucial wickets with the new ball. Alongside Ecclestone and Lamb, she helped reduce Vipers to 24 for 4. Ideally, they should have won, but as has been the case all through the season, Thunder struggled to close out another game…

Taylor has been Vipers’ best acquisition this season. She has contributed with bat, ball and in the field. Her calm demeanor allows those around her to settle down and focus on the job at hand.

On Thursday, Taylor showed just why Vipers were so keen to snap her up after Western Storm had decided to part ways with her. With her team down in the dumps, she calmly soaked up the pressure, allowed the bowling team to ‘win’ a few more overs, ticked over the strike and took the game deep. She guided Bouchier along the way, stitching together a crucial 94-run stand for the fifth wicket. It was an association that took them to the brink of victory— needing 15 runs from 12 balls with six wickets (and two set batters) in hand. They too should have won, but that was when Ecclestone stepped up…

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In pursuit of 133, Vipers got off to the worst possible start, losing Danielle Wyatt and Suzie Bates in quick succession. The former was caught behind off Cross while trying to advance down the track and smack her through the off side. The plan didn’t work— the Thunder captain cramped her for room, kept the ball out of her reach and just got it to shape away enough to catch the edge.

https://twitter.com/LancsCricketWMN/status/1162086133410533378?s=20

10 for 1 soon became 13 for 3 when Bates (10) mis-read an arm-ball from Ecclestone, and then Thea Brookes (0) miscued a lofted shot off Cross. When Tammy Beaumont (10) was dismissed 11 runs later by Lamb, it seemed Vipers were staring down the barrel.

However, the fifth wicket stand between Taylor and Bouchier gave the hosts some hope. The pair gutsed it out, giving the bowlers the initial victory, dealing in singles and twos and laying a solid base from which to launch.

Having settled down, Taylor showcased a wide range of strokes, striking four fours and two sixes in her 43-ball 51. Alongside Bouchier, whose 40 came off 39 deliveries, she guided Vipers to 118 for 4.

Ecclestone then came in and dismissed Taylor, before Bouchier was run out off the last delivery of the 19th over. To many, it appeared to be the final nail in the coffin with 12 required off six balls and two new batters in the middle. However, as she had done in their previous victory, Wellington made a crucial contribution with the bat, smashing back-to-back boundaries to reduce the equation to four off four. Lamb held her nerve, dismissed Wellington and Farrant and conceded only three runs— Carla Rudd and Fi Morris desperately scampering through for a single off the final delivery— to tie the game.

Earlier in the day, having chosen to bat, Thunder’s innings was a strange one— it never seemed to take off, but in the end, they had somehow snuck to a competitive total.

Sune Luus and Tahlia McGrath’s struggles at the top of the order continued, as the pair were dismissed by the second over. Harmanpreet Kaur and Sophia Dunkley attempted to resurrect the innings, but that partnership didn’t last too long either. Just when the latter had appeared to have played herself back into some form, she was dismissed by Wellington for an enterprising 19-ball 23. Vipers’ leg-spinner then made another dent in Thunder’s innings, sending back Boyce for a two-ball duck.

At 30 for 4, Thunder were desperate for a partnership. Kaur dug her heels in, starting typically slowly. She attempted to play herself in while Emma Lamb simply carried on where she had left off in the previous game.

The right-hander, clubbed four boundaries in her knock of 29, buying time for her more senior partner to settle down. Once Kaur put her mind to it, however, there was little to hold her back. She smashed a four and two sixes in the space of two overs in an attempt to pick up the pace of scoring. The pair shared an important 62-run stand for the fifth wicket, before Thunder suffered another mini-collapse.

Having clobbered Taylor for 10 runs off two deliveries, Kaur got greedy and perished for a 33-ball 34 while searching for another boundary. Two deliveries later, Lamb was cleaned up by Wellington and Thunder had fallen to 94 for 7 in 15.2 overs.

Just when it appeared like Thunder’s innings would come to a crashing halt, Cross and Ecclestone displayed their talent with the bat, collecting quick-fire runs to lift Thunder’s total to 132 for 7. Cross finished unbeaten on 22 off 16 balls, while Ecclestone was unconquered on 14.

For Vipers, Wellington was the most successful bowler, picking up three wickets for 22. She bamboozled Thunder’s middle-order slicing through with much ease. Taylor, who took two wickets, put in another impressive performance with the ball.

 

Brief Scores: Lancashire Thunder 132/7 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 34, Emma Lamb 29; Amanda Wellington 3-22, Stafanie Taylor 2-23) beat Southern Vipers