Worcester played host to Central Sparks and Lightning, in a thrilling encounter at Blackfinch New Road. The group stage’s 4th encounter for both the teams saw Lightning register their first win in North Group of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
Record opening partnership between Lightning batsmen Sarah Bryce and Bethan Ellis guided them to a narrow 6-run victory, landing a massive blow to Sparks’ challenge for a spot in the finals.
In what seems to be a day for breathtaking partnerships at the RHF Trophy, Bryce and Ellis notched up 148-runs among themselves, after being put into bat by Sparks. The partnership came about at a brisk pace in 195 balls, before Bryce was clean-bowled by Elizabeth Russell in the 33rd over. The right-arm medium pace of Russell proved useful once again when she removed Bryce’s opening partner, Ellis. The openers scored 75 and 62, respectively, giving their team a huge advantage up top, which ended up being the difference in their narrow victory.
At 148/0, Lightning lost their next 8 for just 85 runs, finishing at 233/8. Abigail Freeborn’s free-spirited innings of 36 ended up being a priceless knock in a match of small margins. Indian-origin English spinner, Anisha Patel, spun a brilliant web around the oppositions, picking up 3 wickets in her spell.
Central Sparks got an assured start at the top of the innings with Gwenan Davies playing a dashing inning of 50 off 63 balls, with a solid knock of 53 from 82 balls from her partner, Marie Kelly. Sparks were favorites to win at the 30-over mark, with potentially the all-important 5 points to challenge table-toppers, Northern Diamonds.
However, this was not to be. At 150/2 in the 31st, Sparks’ middle order saw a mega collapse with 3 wickets falling for just 7 runs. The hero of Lightning bowling line-up was Alicia Presland, who took 2 of these 3 wickets and added another later on in the game, to pick up 3 wickets for a mere 26 runs in 10 overs.
Clare Boycott was the last hope of a collapsing Sparks batting innings, and she delivered with 33* off 56 balls. However, she kept running out of partners at the other end, thanks mostly to some panicked running between the wickets. Lightning ended with 227/9 off their 50 overs, just inches away from the finish line.
Central Sparks are now stranded at 2nd place – 9 points off first place, Northern Diamonds. Lightning has finally managed to get off the bottom of the table and is now at 3rd place with 4 points. However, this result probably spells doom for both teams in some way, as the qualification for a final spot now looks very improbable.
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