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Storm start with a win

Western Storm opened their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaign with a comfortable victory over East Midlands side Lightning in a rain-affected match at the Haslegrave Grove ground in Loughborough.

Chasing a revised target of 250 from 46 overs after Storm had finished on 255 for nine from 50, Lightning were 166 for nine from 34.2 overs when a second stoppage for heavy rain forced the match to be abandoned, losing by 75 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern index.

Sophie Luff made 48 and former England international Fran Wilson 43 off 37 balls after Lightning chose to bowl first. Australian seam bowler Piepa Cleary led the Lightning attack with three for 45 from her 10 overs.

There were useful contributions too from wicketkeeper Natasha Wraith, with a run-a-ball 35 and 17-year-old Sophia Smale, who hit an unbeaten 23, adding 25 with Claire Nicholas for the last wicket.

All-rounder Lucy Higham top-scored with 34 for Lightning, who never recovered from slipping to 23 for three inside seven overs, their troubles compounded when they incurred a five-run penalty for a disciplinary code breach.

The occasion made history by being the first professional match in England to feature a husband-and-wife team of on-field umpires in Naeem Ashraf, an all-rounder who played two one-day internationals for Pakistan in 1995 and Jasmine Naeem.

In gloomy conditions with rain in the air, Storm soon lost Georgia Hennessy leg before to Cleary but were 44-1 after 10 before left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon bowled Alex Griffiths for 22.

Luff and Wilson dominated for a dozen overs, Wilson mixing power with panache as she cleared the short, straight boundary off Gordon and medium-pacer Teresa Graves but took fours off Higham’s off spin with reverse paddle-sweeps.

But Lightning were handed a breakthrough as Wilson hit Graves straight to the fielder at mid-off in the 25th over and when Luff was caught behind down the leg side off 17-year-old leg spinner Sophie Groves two short of a half-century, Storm were 143 for four in the 29th.

Katie George and Dani Gibson made starts but soon came unstuck but, as play continued despite persistent showers, Wraith and Lauren Parfitt added 28 before the latter was caught at mid-off.

Wraith and Smale put on another 27 before Beth Harmer’s fine throw from mid-off ran Wraith, Lauren Filer was caught and bowled after sending a ball from Cleary a long way skywards but Smale and Nicholas made good use of the final four overs.

It looked like score Lightning might fancy themselves to chase down but their reply started badly, their top three batters falling in the opening seven overs to Storm’s new-ball duo of Filer and Gibson.

Filer arrowed one in to bowl Sarah Bryce before sister Kathryn found Wilson at point and Marie Kelly picked out Smale at cover to leave their side in trouble.

Either side of a 50-minute stoppage for rain, Higham and loan signing Emily Windsor, the Southern Vipers batter, added 62, the last 40 coming in five overs as they attacked George and Smale, but Higham was unlucky to fall on 34, when a full blooded drive was turned into a stunning return catch in her follow-through by Nicholas.

When slow left-armer Parfitt dismissed Windsor and Cleary with the last two balls of the 22nd over, caught at backward point and mid-off respectively, Lightning looked out of contention at 102 for six, despite the best efforts of Harmer, who hit 27 from 20 balls before she was run out.

Gordon and Groves were both caught behind as Filer returned to the attack, Graves finishing unbeaten on 26.

Western Storm bowler Lauren Filer, who took three for 35 from eight overs, said: “It was a really good all-round performance. We probably didn’t get as many runs as we wanted but then everyone chipped in with the wickets so overall we’re pretty happy.

“We lost a few wickets near the end after we’d been aiming for 250 to 270 but although it is not the highest score here we felt it was defendable, even though this ground is not exactly a bowler’s paradise.

“From my own point of view rhythm-wise and pace-wise, it is the best I’ve felt this season, so I’m really pleased to get some success. It had a lot more bounce and carry than when we played a warm-up game here last week and that helps my bowling a lot, so that contributed to a few of my wickets.

“The win sets us up nicely for this season. If we carry on playing the way we did today then hopefully we can win loads more games.”

THE MATCH

Western Storm take on Lightning in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy at the Haslegrave Ground, Loughborough tomorrow (Saturday July 2nd).

This 50 over match will get underway at 10:30am.

Entry to this match is free of charge but spectators are being advised that it is open day at Loughborough University so it is suggested that those watching the game arrive early to ensure parking near the ground.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP TO DATE?

This match will be live streamed and you can keep up to date via the Western Storm website.

In addition to this, a report on the day’s play along with quotes will be posted on this website.

HEAD TO HEAD

The team have faced each other once in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint competition. The match took place last year at Bristol and it was a game that Western Storm won by 62 runs.

Lightning won the toss and elected to field.

Sophie Luff made 70 as Storm posted a total of 228 for seven from their allotted overs.

The hosts then dismissed Lightning for 166 with 8.4 overs to spare.

TEAM NEWS

A starting XI will be named from the following players: Sophie Luff (c), Fran Wilson, Fi Morris, Katie George, Georgia Hennessy, Claire Nicholas, Danielle Gibson, Nat Wraith, Alex Griffiths, Nicole Harvey, Lauren Parfitt, Lauren Filer, Mollie Robbins, Sophia Smale, Niamh Holland and Bethan Gammon.

VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM

Ahead of the fixture, Western Storm Head Coach, Trevor Griffin said: “I’m excited to get going again and to see how the squad has progressed. I think there were a number of positives to take from the Charlotte Edwards Cup and we need to galvanize those.

“We’ve got some very talented cricketers and I know that the girls are excited to be getting back to playing and getting back out there.”

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

If you are attending the match please visit the Lightning website for further matchday information.

NEXT MATCH

Western Storm’s next match is on Saturday July 9th when we take on Central Sparks at the Seat Unique Stadium, Bristol.

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