Match Report – WS vs SES 15th Match, May 01, 2024

Western storm Defeat 236 for 5 (Wilson 65, Lough 59, Wraith 40*) South East stars 298 for 5 (Scholfield 74, Davidson-Richards 65, Cranstone 63*) by eight runs (TLS method)

Western Storm showed tremendous determination with the bat against table-topping South East Stars in an entertaining Rachel Hayhoe Flint Trophy match at the Cooper Associates Stadium in Taunton.

Set a tough target of victory in a rain-interrupted match of 299 in 44 overs, the Storm reached 236-5 in their chase, with the weather once again leading to a premature conclusion. Stern's turn was thanks to solid half-centuries from captain Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson and a 40 not out from Nat Wraith.

The first team to beat the Stars in four matches this term, the Storm have now won back-to-back games and have a chance to put themselves in the title mix when they host Southern Vipers in Bristol on Saturday.

With their confidence high following three straight wins, Stars found it easy to plug into a dry pitch as rain delayed the start of the game for an hour and 15 minutes. Openers Bryony Smith and Alexa Stonehouse made up for lost time, putting on 42 runs in five overs to give the innings a vital early impetus.

Signed on loan from Sparks, seam bowler Ellie Anderson endured a difficult debut, conceding 22 runs in two overs with the new ball and withdrawing from the attack. Slow left-armer Sophia Small fared slightly better. Struggling with a wet ball and suffering a short-leg-side boundary, the England under-19 international went for 29 from three overs before the aggressive Smith opened his shoulders and plundered a 19-ball 30 with four fours and a six.

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Seamer Molly Robbins induced Smith to cover point in the sixth over, but that respite proved short-lived as Cudgels took on a progressive partnership of 47 for the second wicket with Scholfield Stonehouse. The South African-born right-hander scored a brilliant match-winning century against the Storm in Bristol 12 months ago and looked capable of repeating the feat when he blasted Small over midwicket for two towering sixes in three balls.

It proved to be a good toss as Stars scored eight an over. Stonehouse tried to cut Harrison and was well caught by Wilson at the back for 29, only for Davidson-Richards to announce himself with a straight six as the runs continued to flow at the expense of Amanda-Jade Wellington.

At least the Australian spinner managed to exert control in nine overs from the river end, which yielded just 35 runs.

Otherwise, the Storm's bowlers found themselves struggling in the face of relentless pressure from Scholfield and Davidson-Richards. Scholfield hit 50 off 48 balls and the 100 partnership was occupied in just 107 balls as the third wicket pair mercilessly exploited anything short of a length on an easy track.

Niamh Holland, called into the attack for the first time, needed two balls to break the partnership, with Scholfield lbw 189 for 74. But the damage was done, with Scholfield picking up five fours with three sixes in a spirited innings. That's 64 balls.

Davidson-Richards went on to 50 off 74 balls, scoring 52 when he was dropped at extra cover by Chloe Skelton, before top-edging a bull shot off Alex Griffiths to take his score to 65 off 85 balls.

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Cranstone ensured there was no let-up in tempo thereafter, with the Surrey left-hander hitting 63 off 40 balls, hitting eight fours and dominating an unbeaten sixth-wicket partnership of 47 in four overs with Rhianna McDonald-Kay. Under the pump at the death, Storm were guilty of several misfields and two more dropped catches as the pressure told.

With seven overs to score, Strome stumbled, giving a return catch to Small Phoebe Franklin and out in the third over. The team was 10 for 2 when Stonehouse bowled Griffiths soon after.

Emboldened by a rebuilding effort, the experienced duo of Luff and Wilson could not take unnecessary risks instead of adopting a cautious approach against the new ball. Even so, Luff got away with a lucky 8, Franklin tripping what should have been a straight catch with the score on 27 off his own delivery.

Making her escape helped Storm's skipper Wilson add 50 off 52 balls as the third-wicket partnership grew in confidence all the while as they kept the ratio at eight an over. And they found the momentum to extend their partnership to three figures off 41 balls, rotating the strike and making the Stars work hard in the field.

Wilson first scored 50 off 46 balls and Lough needed 18 balls to reach the same milestone, while the home side were 122 for 2 at the halfway mark, needing 176 from 8.1 overs.

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At a worrying stage, Stars made a breakthrough, with Bethan Miles bowling Luff for 59 runs. His valiant innings included 73 balls and five fours, and with him, the Storm went with their best chance of pulling off an unlikely victory. Wilson was dismissed for 61, Franklin was dropped at midwicket by Danny Gregory, but was soon out, and the same bowler was stumped by Chloe Hill for 65.

Against that, the fifth-wicket pair of Wraith and Wellington adopted the aerial route as they tried to bring the required ratio back to manageable levels. The only Storm batsman to aim for the short boundary, he helped himself to three sixes at the loss of Wellington Myles, who had quick revenge and caught the Australian in the deep in a slow-sweeping 30 off 16 balls. .

With 74 needed off the last 10 overs, Raith and new partner Holland piled up enough boundaries to pile the pressure on the Stars for the first time in the tournament. Their partnership stood at 44 when the rain arrived, with the players at 236 for 5 and the Storm on the right side of the equation for eight runs.

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