Western Storm make it three out of three

Heather Knight moved to the top of the scoring charts and Western Storm to the Kia Super League summit by leading her side to a nervy three-wicket victory over Southern Vipers at the Ageas Bowl.

Storm and England skipper Knight has scored 129 runs in the KSL 2019 so far after scores of 41, 50 not out and this exquisite 38.

She added 71 with Indian superstar Smriti Mandhana for the second wicket, before Fran Wilson’s impeccable 40 off 30 balls took Storm above Vipers and Surrey Stars to the top of the table.

Both sides had come into the clash unbeaten in their opening two KSL fixtures, but Storm’s powerful batting line-up proved too strong in front of an almost 1,500 strong crowd.

Stafanie Taylor (44 not out), Tammy Beaumont (37) and Suzie Bates (33) had given Vipers 142 to defend on the same pitch Somerset had smashed 202 on in the Vitality Blast on Friday night.

In reply, Rachel Priest square cut Lauren Bell to the boundary before the fast bowler exacted her revenge by flattening the New Zealander’s leg-stump with an in-swinger next ball.

Storm motored in the third over as Smriti Mandhana’s three boundaries helped take 16 runs off Bell, before Heather Knight slog-swept Taylor for six.

Mandhana and Knight cruised past a fifty partnership, from just 32 balls but the stand ended on 71 as Tash Farrant returned to the attack.

Left armer Farrant found Mandhana swinging to fine leg before Knight was castled four balls later to swing the game open again.

However, Sophie Luff and Wilson, who eased the pressure with a straight maximum, intelligently ticked off 58 of the remaining 66 runs before the former offered a catch to mid-off and Deepti Sharma was run out.

With two needed off the last over, Wilson was lbw and Anya Shrubsole lbw to Bates before Sonia Odedra tip-toed Storm over the line with a ball to spare.

Earlier, Tammy Beaumont decided to bat, after winning the toss, but lost Danni Wyatt to the second ball of the match, when Claire Nicholas bowled her with a loopy yorker.

Beaumont and Bates scored carefully in a 66-run stand for the second wicket, with the former the more attacking with a pair of sixes.

Curiously the England star had only collected a single maximum in her first three KSL campaigns, she has seven now this year, although fell attempting an eighth to the deep square rope.

New Zealander Bates was finding timing more difficult, with two boundaries in her 38-ball 33, before she slapped to midwicket. Thea Brookes was then caught behind.

At 94 for four with just five overs remaining, Vipers needed a pick-me-up and Taylor’s boundary hitting plus Maia Bouchier’s quick-running gave it to them.

West Indian Taylor thrashed seven boundaries in her 44 not out off 28 balls.

Bouchier was run out off the last ball as the hosts posted 142 for five, to set-up a record chase in the KSL at the Ageas Bowl.

After the match Fran Wilson said: “It was a little nervy at the end, but that’s just T20 cricket, it ebbs and flows. I probably should have been more clinical at the end but I’m just happy to get the team as close as I did.

“I’m really happy with my strike rate at the moment and feel like I’m hitting the balls nicely.

“We are really lucky to have some experienced and reliable batsmen at the top of the order and they are all explosive as well.

“We go out trying to win every game, but also in the right way. We are really happy with where we are but we’re still aware that there are plenty of games to go and we need to keep up our momentum.”