Match Preview: Western Storm vs Loughborough Lightning
Date: 13 August 2019
Venue: County Ground, Bristol
A lot of talk in cricket revolves around technique, temperament, foot-work, run-up, agility, athleticism, etc. A thing not focussed on as much as the other aspects is momentum. It has an inexplicable effect.
Western Storm will be playing their third game in four days in the final edition of the Women’s Cricket Super League’s (WCSL), when they take on Loughborough Lightning at the County Ground in Bristol on Tuesday (August 13).
Talking about momentum, it has been on Storm’s side. They are on a three-game winning streak and have found a way to win, no matter the situation they find themselves in. Their openers haven’t been able to get them off to a flier this time – Rachel Priest has been a let-down so far. She has scored just 28 runs in the three outings.
That Storm are yet to be beaten is largely due to Heather Knight and Fran Wilson’s contributions – none more important than their 88-run stand in their second match. With both their openers back in the hut without much on board in a run-chase, the English duo combined to not just rescue the side, but also almost see them through.
In contrast, their bowling has been a well-gelled unit, hardly letting the opposition run away with the match.
In all the three games, the opposition had got to a decent position at the halfway mark in the innings. While Vipers were 57 for 1 in the first ten overs, Thunder were 59 for 1, and Lightning, in their first clash against Storm, were 54 for 3 after 10 overs. But in the second phase of ten overs, despite the decent platform, all three sides failed to post a total to challenge Knight’s team’s might. Storm have picked 12 wickets in the last 10 overs so far. That is a phase that Lightning would be guarded against, given that this is their reverse fixture.
Lightning, on the other hand have just got themselves a couple of points on the board, courtesy Hayley Matthews’ heroics. Apart from the last game, where they had to chase a target, their batters have been unable to force the pace while setting a target. As a result, in their first two games, they ended up with below-par totals.
Amy Jones has had a quiet couple of games after beginning the tournament with a 65. Matthews covered up her lack of runs with a match-winning outing in their third game. Chamari Atapattu also used the opportunity to get a few runs under her belt. Is this the start of the ascendency for Lightning?
Storm and Lightning – both terms associated with rains, which is likely to make its presence in Bristol on Tuesday – have met each other five times in the WCSL, with the latter winning only once. Clearly Storm have the upper hand going by recent form as well as head-to-head record.
On most occasions in cricket, batters’ performance dominates, to an extent of overpowering bowling efforts, pushing them to the backdrop. In all the three matches for Storm, Nicholas has been consistently delivering the goods. Two wickets in each match means that she is jointly at the top of the wicket-takers’ list along with Tash Farrant, the left-arm seamer from Vipers.
Nicholas has been consistently performing well for some time now. Earlier in the year, she was Wales’ leading wicket-taker with 10 scalps and was instrumental in the team reaching the finals of the county Women’s One Day Cup. Although Wales lost the title-clash, she shone with a three-fer in that match.
For Storm to put out a restrictive bowling display yet again, Nicholas has to stand tall and make regular strikes – and that stands true even if she doesn’t get recognised with awards after the game.
After twin failures in the first couple of games, Atapattu used the third outing to score some quick runs and put on a match-winning stand with Matthews. The disdainful treatment that she meted out to spinners Helen Fenby, Hollie Armitage and Leigh Kasperek had the stamp of a typical sub-continent player.
The 29-ball 40 that she scored against Diamonds should stand her and Lightning in good stead. That she is a southpaw, the only one in the top and middle order for them, helps matters. It will be interesting to see if she comes across as the whirlpool that silences the Storm.
The T20 Blast, that is running concurrently with the WCSL, has seen three matches played in Bristol. In each of those games, the side winning the toss has gone on to win the game, with two of those coming in chases. Essex was the only team to have batted first and won after their 206 for 3 seemed insurmountable for Gloucestershire.
This is the first WCSL match at this venue this season. The only match of the competition scheduled in 2018 was washed out. Keeping in mind the fact that six of the first eight matches in this season have been won by teams chasing, expect another similar decision to be made by the captain winning the toss.
On the weather front, the temperature is expected to hover around 16-18 degree Celsius, with a few chances of rain. The recently concluded men’s Cricket World Cup also saw two games at this venue washed out. But then that was months ago. Looking at unaffected T20 Blast games over the past few days, we can be hopeful of a full game.
Western Storm: Heather Knight (c), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Freya Davies, Dani Gibson, Ellie Mitchell, Claire Nicholas, Sophie Luff, Naomi Dattani, Amara Carr, Sonia Odedra, Alex Griffiths, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Deepti Sharma.
Loughborough Lightning: Georgia Elwiss (captain), Amy Jones (wk), Jenny Gunn, Kirstie Gordon, Abbey Freeborn, Lucy Higham, Tara Norris, Alice Monaghan, Kathryn Bryce, Georgia Adams, Sarah Glenn, Jo Gardner, Mignon du Preez, Hayley Matthews, Chamari Atapattu.