Heather Knight opened the innings. Well, not really. But when you walk in as early as the fourth ball of the innings, it isn’t much different. And then from there, she turned the game. Knight style – slowly, calmly.
Knight’s heroics meant that Western Storm were crowned champions of the final season of Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL), beating Southern Vipers by six wickets with six balls to spare at the County Ground in Hove on Sunday (September 1). For a team that was so consistent through the season – winning 10 of their 11 games – the end couldn’t have been more apt.
Chasing 173 for their second title, Storm didn’t get off to the best of starts. They lost one of their mainstays, Smriti Mandhana, for a golden duck. Tash Farrant, taking the new ball, struck on her third ball. It was the second time in three outings she had got the Indian batter.
From thereon, Rachel Priest and Knight began the rebuilding. Danielle Wyatt’s first over really gave the chance for Storm to up the ante and they did just that – taking 14 runs off it. At the end of the power play, they were a decent 50 for 1.
However, Priest fell a ball later to Amanda-Jade Wellington – who went on to pick up two wickets – and the table toppers were suddenly up against it. It was then up to the skipper and Fran Wilson, who have in the past combined to see the side home, to pick up the pieces. There was however, no encore this time round as Wilson soon fell to Farrant, who was easily the best of the Vipers bowlers.
Knight then went on to notch up her fourth half century in this edition of the WCSL, ninth overall. It was a watchful one that took 38 balls. She then found an able ally in allrounder Deepti Sharma.
The pair got together when Storm needed 70 in 45 balls. Not an easy task.
They found regular boundaries and Sharma did well to give back the strike to Knight. The captain would then do the task of hitting the boundaries. The 16th over of the innings was when even Sharma started opening up her arms.
Lauren Bell was taken for 17 off it, with Knight hitting a maximum and Sharma ending the over with a boundary. She then hit consecutive fours off Wyatt’s second over as well. From nowhere, the equation was down to a run-a-ball 12.
Suzie Bates’, entrusted with the penultimate over of the chase (which then turned out to be the last), was smashed for two boundaries by Sharma – who ended unbeaten on a 22-ball 39 – before Knight fittingly ending it with another boundary. She finished this season eight short of the 400-run mark, ending third on the run-getters’ list.
During her undefeated knock of 78 off just 53 balls – which was her highest in this edition – she crossed the 1000-run mark in the WCSL, the only one to do so.
Earlier in the evening, Vipers had chosen to bat after winning the toss. They had batted last in the semi-final and hence, they had the batting momentum one would think. But these are not to be counted when the players are in the middle.
For the second time in the day, Bates and Wyatt wasted little time in laying into the bowlers. Freya Davies, the leading wicket-taker of this year’s WCSL, was the first to face their wrath. She went for ten in her first over and the for 16 in her second.
Within five overs, Vipers had raced to 53, with Wyatt scoring 35 of them off just 17 balls. Bates probably felt left out, so she joined the party by hitting Anya Shrubsole for two fours. At the end of the power play, Vipers were 62 for no loss – they were 71 for no loss in the semi-final earlier in the day.
Next over, though, Bates had to depart as she spooned a catch back to Sonia Odedra. The Kiwi had scored 26 in just 19 balls with five fours. The opening stand was worth 65 for Vipers.
However, Storm didn’t have any respite. Soon, Wyatt brought up her fourth WCSL half century, getting there in just 27 balls. It was in addition to the ton that she had struck earlier this season against Surrey Stars.
Along with Tammy Beaumont, Wyatt kept Storm wicketless for seven and a half overs. In the interim, the duo found boundaries at will, punctuated by ones and twos. At the end of the 14th over, Vipers were 134/1, with the partnership worth 69.
That’s when Sharma struck. She sent back Wyatt back for 73, which had taken 42 balls. The knock featured ten fours and two sixes. Off the next ball, Maia Bouchier was run out for nought. Five balls later, Beaumont was walking back for a 28-ball 33.
Suddenly, Storm seemed to be back in it. Three wickets in eight balls for just four runs.
Wellington and Fi Morris struck some boundaries then, taking the score past 150. Davies, who had an off day, then picked up Paige Scholfield to sign off WCSL with 19 wickets.
Shrubsole was the pick of the Storm bowlers, as she picked up two wickets. Despite conceding a four off the last ball, due to which Vipers posted 172/7, she ended up with 2/26.
Brief Scores: Southern Vipers 172/7 in 20 overs (Danielle Wyatt 73, Tammy Beaumont 33; Anya Shrubsole 2/26) lost to Western Storm 174/4 in 19 overs (Heather Knight 78*, Deepti Sharma 39*; Tash Farrant 2/19) by six wickets. PoM: Heather Knight.