Western Storm significantly boosted their chances of reaching Finals Day in the Charlotte Edwards Cup as they beat fellow challengers Northern Diamonds in a nervy low-scoring clash at Emirates Riverside.
Storm replaced the Diamonds at the top of Group Two by recovering from 14 for three to chase 111 and win by four wickets with three balls remaining in this penultimate round fixture, unbeaten captain Sophie Luff making an excellent 60 off 54 balls.
The win owed much to some expert bowling and fielding and sets up a fight for possibly two spots at Finals Day when Monday’s final round takes place. Three teams from Group Two are still alive.
Storm are top on 13 points and Diamonds on 12 in second place. Thunder have 11 points in third. Only the top team in each of the two groups guarantees qualification for the September 5 showpiece, while the best second-placed finisher also advances to Southampton.
Thunder play Diamonds at Chester and Storm face Sunrisers at Fenner’s in Monday’s blockbuster final day.
Having invited the Diamonds to bat, spinners Nicole Harvey and Fi Morris claimed two wickets apiece, while Georgia Hennessy returned a superb one for 15 from four overs of medium pace.
The skittish Diamonds suffered two run outs, including captain Hollie Armitage following a mix-up with Sterre Kalis coming back for two.
Lauren Parfitt also took a fine one-handed catch over her head at point after Linsey Smith miscued Hennessy – 56 for five in the 12th over.
The Diamonds, fielding two bowling debutants in Rachel Slater and Ella Telford, had got off to a bright start at 22 without loss after two overs before succumbing to the pressure applied by their visitors.
Only Alex MacDonald, from number eight, reached 20 with 22. But home hopes were raised with three wickets inside the opening four overs of the chase as Storm fell to 14 for three.
Smith’s left-arm spin trapped Hennessy lbw with the first ball of the innings before left-arm seamer Slater, aged 20, bowled Morris and Gibson in her first eight balls.
Luff and Katie George then shared a calm and valuable 49 for the fourth wicket.
Luff pulled Armitage’s leg-spin for four and lofted her for a straight six, only to lose George bowled for 14 in the same over as the score fell to 63 for four in the 12th.
Alex Griffiths and Natasha Wraith also fell before Luff, who reached her third Storm fifty of the summer off 44 balls, helped gain 18 off the last three overs and four off the last. Parfitt also added an unbeaten 20.
Following the match, Sophie Luff said: “We are top of the table, and it’s well within our grasp going to the Sunrisers on Monday. Diamonds and Thunder play each other, so we have to win.
“We were clear coming into these three games post the Hundred that we’d have to win them all. We’ve won two so far. Hopefully that momentum takes us through to Monday.
“Chasing 111 is almost the perfect scenario when you win the toss and bowl. I thought the pitch would play better – it was slow and not much bounce, quite tricky.
“I was a bit light on runs at the start of the tournament, so to get us over the line is really pleasing.”