Date: 28 August 2019
Venue: Rose Bowl, Southampton
In their final group game of the season, Southern Vipers and Loughborough Lightning will clash in what is set to be a dress rehearsal for finals day at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Wednesday (August 28). While Lightning seem to have peaked at the right time, Vipers have had a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Their place in the top three was sealed on the back of a four-wicket loss to Yorkshire Diamonds on Sunday (August 25), thanks to the latter’s inability to record a bonus point-win.
Mignon du Preez, the South African international, has been the main reason behind Lightning’s revival. The 30-year-old has scored 246 runs in the 2019 edition of the Women’s Cricket Super League (WCSL) at an average of close to 62. Her belligerent 70 not out off 41 deliveries against Surrey Stars was the knock that changed the tide for last years’ runners-up. Since then, Lightning have not lost a single game, cantering to five wins on the trot. After a bit of a struggle to start, Georgia Elwiss’ team have hit the right notes.
Vipers, on the other hand, have been largely inconsistent. Their last four matches have seen them alternatively win and lose. Having overcome Diamonds in a nail-biter at home, they succumbed to the same opposition in their previous game.
Danielle Wyatt has been carrying the batting line-up on her shoulders, but Suzie Bates’ return to run-making ways bodes well for the team. With the exit of Stafanie Taylor, who will be returning home to join the West Indies squad ahead of their series against Australia, Vipers will rely heavily on this opening pair (and Tammy Beaumont) to score a bulk of their runs.
They will however have to counter Shabnim Ismail, the South African fast bowler who Lightning have roped in as a replacement for Hayley Matthews. Ismail— one of the fastest bowlers on the women’s circuit— will be keen to make her mark on this tournament as soon as possible. There will be no doubt that she will run in fast and unleash a series of thunderbolts in an attempt to unsettle Vipers’ top order. How Wyatt and co. tackle her will be key to their performance.
Considering their recent pattern of results, Vipers look primed for a win, but it will be interesting to see whether they are able to push past a resurgent Lightning, and maintain their good record at the ‘Snake Pit’.
Amanda Wellington, who came into the Southern Vipers squad as a last-minute replacement for Sophie Molineux, has been one of her team’s best bowlers. Coming in to bowl in the middle of the innings, the leg-spinner has picked up nine wickets, including a best of 3 for 22 against Thunder at Hove. She has displayed a great sense of control, conceding only 7.10 runs an over through the course of the tournament— the fourth-best among the leg-spinners on show in the WCSL.
In addition to her skills with the ball, Wellington has shown great ability with the bat as well. After getting Vipers over the line in a tight chase against Lightning early in the league stage, she played a useful cameo in their previous encounter against Yorkshire Diamonds— smashing an unbeaten 24 off 12 balls including three fours and a six.
While Wellington will be hoping that she will not be required with the bat, she will however, be crucial in restricting Lightning’s middle order, that is packed with good players of spin - du Preez and Elwiss, in particular.
The departure of Hayley Matthews has brought Chamari Atapattu to the fore for Lightning. She fits perfectly into the gap that the West Indian has left in the team— an opening batter who also provides an attacking option with the ball. While the left-hander has largely struggled with the bat, managing only 151 runs in nine innings so far, she seems to have finally found some form. Her last two outings— against Surrey Stars and Lancashire Thunder— have resulted in scores of 45 and 26 respectively.
With the ball, Atapattu has bowled 12 overs through the course of the tournament and taken only three wickets. However, the previous match was when the off-spinner finally bowled her full quota of four overs. Having taken the new ball, Atapattu came around the wicket, and attacked the Thunder batters— darting the ball into the stumps, cramping them for room, and making sure to bring them forward. It was a wonderful spell of bowling from someone who is generally considered a part-time option.
The Sri Lankan will be looking to continue her fairly good run and make sure to put in an impactful performance on Wednesday.
The Rose Bowl has traditionally been Vipers’ fortress. However, the 2019 season of the WCSL has seen the ‘Snake Pit’ breached once already, while on the second occasion, Diamonds self-destructed to hand the hosts a three-run win. In both games the team chasing has largely been on top, indicating that conditions— that are generally heavily in favour of the batters— don’t change much through the day.
While there is only a 20% chance of rain forecast on Wednesday, one can expect a bit of cloud cover — something that could possibly give the fast bowlers some hope going into the game.
Southern Vipers: Tammy Beuamont (c), Danielle Wyatt, Charlie Dean, Lauren Bell, Tash Farrant, Maia Bouchier, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfied, Thea Brookes, Maria Kelly, Issy Wong, Fi Morris, Suzie Bates, Amanda Wellington, Stafanie Taylor.
Loughborough Lightning: Georgia Elwiss (c), Amy Jones, Jenny Gunn, Kirstie Gordon, Abbey Freeman, Lucy Higham, Tara Norris, Alice Monaghan, Kathryn Bryce, Georgia Adams, Sarah Glenn, Jo Gardner, Mignon du Preez, Chamari Atapattu, Shabnim Ismail.