five out of five for Western Storm

Western Storm’s relentless march towards next month’s Kia Super League Finals Day continued with a fifth straight win as openers Smriti Mandhana and Rachel Priest demolished a 152 target to beat Yorkshire Diamonds by nine wickets at York’s Clifton Park.

The table-topping Storm initially stymied the Diamonds progress having elected to bowl, with five run outs coming in the last 2.4 overs in 151 for nine.

Hollie Armitage top-scored with a career best 59 off 56 balls from number three before Sophie Luff threw in from the leg-side boundary to affect a stunning quartet of run outs.

Armitage’s innings was then dwarfed in comparison by Indian left-hander Mandhana and New Zealand’s Priest, who shared 133 inside 14 overs.

Mandhana hit 70 off 47 balls and wicketkeeper Priest, who also had a hand in all five run outs, 72 not out off 43.

It means that at the halfway stage in their campaign, the Storm already have one hand on a place at Finals Day at Hove on September 1st having secured a bonus point victory with 5.1 overs remaining.

Armitage, strong on the sweep, shared a third-wicket stand of 60 inside eight overs with Indian Jemimah Rodrigues, advancing the Diamonds from 47 for two in the seventh over.

Storm new ball duo Claire Nicholas and Freya Davies struck, with Alyssa Healy caught at square-leg on the pull off Nicholas’ off-spin for 12.

Lauren Winfield was then stumped by Priest for 18 off Sonia Odedra.

Davies later bowled Armitage in the 20th over amidst the run out carnage, but England’s Anya Shrubsole was clearly the pick of the bowlers with one for 16 from four overs. She had Rodrigues caught at mid-off by Mandhana.

Three of the five run outs came in the 19th over – bowled by Shrubsole – as Yorkshire crucially stumbled.

All five runs outs occurred in search of a second run going to wicketkeeper Priest.

Last year, Mandhana was the KSL’s leading run-scorer with 421 from nine innings, including two fifties and a hundred. Here, she displayed similar dominance on the way to a 29-ball fifty, achieved in the eighth over when the Storm were 86 without loss.

Seventy four runs came off the power play, while opening partner Priest scored only eight of the first 58.

Mandhana was particularly strong over cover and to long-off and, in the fifth over, hoisted leg-spinner Katie Levick for her only six.

Priest played her part as the partnership approached 100, hitting seamer Alice Davidson-Richards for three successive boundaries to end the sixth. In 2017, the Kiwi had hit an unbeaten century in a 10-wicket win at this venue.

Happy to camp on the back foot and hit powerfully to leg, she reached her fifty off 33 balls in the 10th over with the score at 102 without loss. She finished the game with two sixes in three balls off Linsey Smith’s left-arm spin.

The Diamonds, for whom Davidson-Richards had Mandhana caught at long-on, have now lost three from four games.

Western Storm’s player of the match Rachel Priest said: “To go out and finish a game off like that was really good for myself and Smriti at the top.

“We let them get a few too many runs, but it was a really good wicket and we were confident of chasing down that target. I really enjoy batting here. It’s a good wicket with a fast outfield and reasonable boundaries.

“We got the message about the bonus point if we got the runs inside 16 overs, so I just thought, ‘Let’s have a go’.

“Things would have to go pretty wrong for us (not to get to Finals Day), but in T20 cricket you can never say never. We just need to keep building from here.”