MATCH REPORT | WESTERN STORM v SUNRISERS
Match Report provided by the ECB Reporters Network
Fran Wilson scored a blistering 56 to propel Western Storm to a much-needed six-run victory over Sunrisers in a rain-shortened Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy contest at Cheltenham.
Alex Griffiths made 46 and Niamh Holland a quickfire 28 as the home side ran up a useful total of 165-3 after being put into bat in a match reduced to 22 overs a side.
Grace Scrivens and Dane van Niekerk did their best to make a game of it, scoring 39 and 26 respectively to give the chase early impetus. But off spinner Chloe Skelton removed both in the space of two overs to strike a double blow from which Sunrisers were unable to recover.
Skelton finished with 3-36 and fellow spinner Sophia Smale took 4-34 as Sunrisers came up short on 159-8, Storm registering their first win in the 50-over format since May to move off the foot of the table.
Storm openers Dani Gibson and Griffiths did their best to utilise a reduced four-over powerplay, adding 22 in 3.2 overs before the former was bowled playing across the line for 12 by Eva Gray.
Forward momentum was maintained as new batter Wilson scored at a run-a-ball, driving Gray down the ground for four and then pulling spinner Mady Villiers for another boundary to keep the scoreboard moving.
The former England World Cup winner greeted leg spinner Abtaha Maqsood with a swept four and then pulled her through mid-wicket as Storm passed 50 in the ninth over. Griffiths proved the perfect foil, finding the gaps and rotating the strike as the second wicket alliance realised 50 from 45 balls.
A slow outfield proved problematical for Storm and Amu Surenkumar bowled tidily to restrict scoring from the Chapel End, but Wilson swept Scrivens for four in the fourteenth over to regain the initiative for the hosts. Wilson's aggressive approach paid dividends when she went to a 45-ball half century in the grand manner, pulling Surenkumar for six over mid-wicket to register the first maximum of the innings.
Surenkumar avenged herself in her next over, Wilson attempting to drive and edging a catch to short fine leg with the score on 113-2. Her forthright innings occupied 52 balls, included 5 fours and a six and served as a crucial mainstay in a progressive stand of 91 in 13.3 overs.
In contrast, Griffiths found the boundary only once in compiling 46 from 47 balls before holing out to deep mid-wicket off the bowling of Surenkumar, who finished with 2-37 from five overs. Nevertheless, her innings proved every bit as important as that of Wilson in helping Storm achieve a competitive total.
Promoted up the order, England Under-19 international Niamh Holland picked up the cudgels at the death, helping herself to four boundaries in a high-octane innings of 28 from 17 balls. Storm captain Sophie Luff weighed in with nine runs, playing her part in a lucrative unbroken stand of 32 for the third wicket.
Needing to score at 7.50 an over, Sunrisers' chase was undermined by the early loss of Cordelia Griffith, the opener smacking a short delivery from Gibson straight to backward point in the third over with the score on 10.
Introduced at the Chapel End, slow left armer Sophia Smale struck with her first delivery, bowling Jodi Grewcock for one as the visitors slipped to 19-2 in the fifth. Dane van Niekerk immediately demonstrated her attacking intent, hoisting Smale over mid-wicket for six and then hitting her for four through the same area, but the experienced Phoebe Graham sent down three overs with the new ball for just 10 runs to pile further pressure onto Sunrisers.
Lauren Filer proved expensive, conceding 13 runs from the eighth over, to give the visitors encouragement, van Niekerk and Scrivens advancing the score to 66-2 at the halfway point of the innings.
Chloe Skelton then struck a crucial blow, taking an instinctive return catch to dismiss the dangerous van Kiekerk for 2, at which point Sunrisers required a further 96 off 63 balls. Their task became still more difficult when Skelton had Scrivens caught at the wicket by Katie Jones for 39 in her next over.
Storm missed an opportunity to further tighten the screw, Filer dropping Villers at mid-off on nine off the bowling of Skelton. Encouraged by that mishap, Gray went on the attack, raising 27 from 19 balls before hoisting Smale to deep mid-wicket. When Smale pinned Amara Carr lbw next ball, Sunrisers were 121-6 and needing to score at more than 11 an over.
Villiers scored 22 off 16 balls, only to hit Skelton to mid-on in the 20th over, after which Storm were able to relax.