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Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy: Western Storm v South East Stars

Alice Davidson-Richards produced a brilliant all-round performance to inspire South East Stars to a 36-run victory over Western Storm in an entertaining Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy encounter at Cheltenham.

Davidson-Richards made 50 with the bat and then weighed in with 4-33 with the ball to ensure Stars maintain their pursuit of frontrunners Southern Vipers and Northern Diamonds.

Chloe Brewer top-scored with 61 and Rhianna Southby hit 54 as Stars posted a formidable 283-8 after winning the toss, while off spinner Chloe Skelton took competition-best figures of 5-54 to keep Storm in the hunt.

Sophie Luff and Alex Griffiths made a decent fist of chasing, scoring 95 and 48 respectively in staging a stand of 102 for the second wicket, but Davidson-Richards took key wickets and Alexa Stonehouse returned figures of 3-27 as Storm were dismissed for 247 in 48 overs, Stars holding their nerve to see the game out with something to spare.

Stars elected to bat and, thanks to Brewer’s initiative, commenced their innings in T20 mode. Playing on the front foot, Brewer succeeded in knocking Storm new-ball stalwart Lauren Filer off her length and putting the home side under immediate pressure.

Danielle Gibson had Kirstie White held at slip for 11 in the fifth over, but Brewer was already out of the traps and in full flight, having quickly worked out how to use the College Ground slope to her advantage. Cutting and driving with impunity, the 20-year-old opener raced to a 36-ball 50 as Stars made the most of the fielding restrictions to post 70 from 10 overs. Having set an aggressive tone to raise 61 from 53 balls and garner nine fours, Brewer chanced her arm once too often, miss-timing a drive off Skelton and skying a catch to mid-off, where Gibson took a tricky catch over her shoulder.

Storm breathed a sigh of relief and sought to restore order by deploying spin at both ends, Skelton and Sophia Smale at least succeeding in controlling the run rate where seam had failed. Encouraged by her earlier success, Skelton made further in-roads, inducing Kira Chathli to drive expansively and hole out to Fi Morris at mid-on for 14.

But Davidson-Richards was already displaying immaculate timing and striking the ball cleanly and her alliance with Phoebe Franklin, who adopted the role of chief support in a progressive stand of 56 in 11 overs for the fourth wicket, ensured Stars reached halfway on 144-3 to regain the upper hand.

One of four spinners who sent down 32 overs between them for Storm, Morris removed Franklin in the 28th over, the Kent right-hander miss-cuing a drive and offering a catch to the ubiquitous Skelton at mid-off, having contributed a handy 29 from 37 balls. Davidson-Richards went to 50 via 64 balls, with five boundaries, and was looking to bat long when she inexplicably attempted a reverse sweep against Claire NIcholas and was held at backward point.

Katie George kept things tight during seven overs from the Chapel End, but Stars again broke loose from any attempt to shackle them, Southby and Lauren Smith wresting back the initiative in an exhilarating stand of 57 in 44 balls for the sixth wicket. Southby demonstrated excellent placement in scoring at a run a ball and she and Australian Smith ran frantically between the wickets to put the fielding side under intense pressure.  running between the wickets.

Southby raised 50 in the grand manner, hoisting a delivery from Gibson over the square leg boundary to register the only six of the innings. She had harvested 54 from 52 balls and accrued 5 fours and a six when she hit the returning Skelton to mid-on with the score on 247. Skelton accounted for Smith and Alexa Stonehouse in quick succession, taking three wickets in five balls to register her first five-wicket haul in the competition, but the damage had already been done.

Constrained by Stonehouse, who sent down five overs for nine runs and clean bowled Nat Wraith for four, Storm battled to 48-1 by the end of the 10-over powerplay. Setting their stall out to bat long, Luff and Griffiths advanced their partnership to 50 from 65 balls, found modest acceleration to raise a three-figure stand from a further 57 deliveries and demonstrated impressive footwork to deal with the threat posed by Danielle Gregory’s leg spin.

Luff reached 50 from 66 balls and Griffiths, having hewn 48 from 79 deliveries, looked a sure bet to emulate her when she top-edged a drive and was caught at the wicket off the bowling of Davidson-Richards in the 27th over with 123 on the board.

The required rate was already above seven an over when new batter Fran Wilson smacked Davidson-Richards straight to mid-wicket and departed for 15, and Franklin made Storm’s task even more difficult by removing George for 16 in the 38th over. Morris was bowled by Eva Gray in the next over, at which point Storm were 183-5 and in need of inspiration.

Chasing 86 to win off the last 10 overs, Storm suffered a further blow when the returning Stonehouse bowled Gibson for nine, while Smale was adjudged lbw to Ryana Macdonald-Gay as Stars turned the screw.

Lauren Filer elected to throw caution to the wind, scoring at better than a run a ball to put the visitors under pressure, but Luff’s brave pursuit of victory ended when she was bowled by Stonehouse, having made 95 from 119 balls, with 11 fours. And with the captain, went Storm’s last chance.

Storm spinner Chloe Skelton said: “It’s a bitter sweet day really. While it felt good to play well and take five wickets on a personal level, it was disappointing to lose the game after playing so well. We thought taking the pace off the ball was the way to go on that pitch and we did that reasonably well for the most part. But Southby played really well for them and just managed to take the game away from us at the end of their innings.

“Sophie (Luff) and Alex (Griffiths) played beautifully to give us a foundation and we were right in the game while those two were in the middle. Sophie is so consistent and it looked as though she might win the game for us at one stage, but it was not to be. If there is anything to be learned from this defeat, it is to hang on in there during those key moments in the game and not panic. We have some catching up to do, but there are still enough games left for us to qualify when the competition resumes in September.”

THE MATCH

Western Storm take on South East Stars in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy at Cheltenham College today (Saturday July 23rd).

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

Tickets for this match are available now.

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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 two sides have met on three occasions in 50-over cricket, with Western Storm coming out on top twice and South East Stars winning once.

Western Storm’s highest team score in the series is 245 for eight at the KIA Oval in 2021, whilst for South East Stars it is 249 for four in the same game.

The highest individual innings for Western Storm is 104 not out by Sophie Luff at Bristol in 2020, whilst for South East Stars it’s 92 by both Alice Davidson-Richards and Sophie Dunkley at the Kia Oval last year.

The best bowling figures in the series for Western Storm is four for 31 by Georgia Hennessy at Beckenham in 2020. For South East Stars it’s four for 58 by Tash Farrant at the Kia Oval last year.

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 Captain, Sophie Luff said: “We’re mid-table at the moment and we need to build on that in this game against South East Stars in the last game before we break for The Hundred. It’s a big game and I think we leap frog them if we win. Hopefully, we can do that and set up an exciting few games when we return in September.

“They are a good side, but we’ll be doing everything that we can to come out on top.

“I want to be putting in match winning contributions week in, week out. The challenge for me is to be as consistent as possible and it was nice to get a few last week. Tomorrow’s a new day and we start again and we’ll be as hungry as ever.

“Our bowling has been really exciting so far in the competition. Lauren Filer and Dani Gibson have been bowling brilliantly and setting the tone with the new ball. We’ve also got a really exciting spin option in Sophie Smale. Niamh Holland has bowled well at the death too. That’s been great, but we haven’t fired with the bat yet. We’ve been good at times but there’s so much more in the tank and that’s really exciting. Hopefully, this weekend will be the time when our batting unit fires because we’ve got so much strength in depth.”

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Everything you need to know can be found at the Official Gloucestershire website.

NEXT MATCH

Western Storm’s next match is on Friday September 9th when we take on Southern Vipers at the 1st Central County Ground, Hove.

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