Western Storm Captain, Heather Knight led her side to a convincing win over Loughborough Lightning to give the 2017 champions the perfect start to this year’s Kia Super League.
Knight hit 44 as Storm eased to a seven-wicket win over the 2018 runners-up, who were always up against it after posting a 20-over total of 126 for six at their Haslegrave Ground, despite a fine 65 from Knight’s international team-mate Amy Jones.
Storm completed their victory with 18 balls to spare after Knight and Indian batter Smriti Mandhana had added 54 in just over seven overs for the second wicket.
Both fell to Sarah Glenn, both caught in the deep by Georgia Adams, who held on to a superb diving effort at long-off to deny Knight as she eyed up a half-century. However, a couple of wickets for the promising leg-spinner was a small consolation for the home side.
Lightning had made an awful start when they batted, losing two of their overseas stars in the opening two overs after Georgia Elwiss had decided to bat first.
The West Indies all-rounder Hayley Matthews was out to the second delivery of the innings, leg before to England seamer Freya Davies. Sri Lanka’s Chamari Atapattu was next, top-edging off-spinner Claire Nicholas on leg side as she tried to get off the mark, wicketkeeper Rachel Priest having time to jog round and take the catch.
When Elwiss became the third batter out for a duck, bowled by Indian off-spinner Deepti Sharma, Lightning were 15 for three. Storm could hardly have wanted a better start, conceding only three boundaries in the Powerplay overs as the home side limped to 27 for three.
All three had come off the bat of Jones, who went on make her second half-century in Lightning colours during a partnership of 77 for the fourth wicket with South Africa’s Mignon du Preez.
She had a let-off on 44 when she was dropped at deep backward square off Nicholas, and she might have added to her seven boundaries but for Storm’s excellent ground fielding.
Jones eventually fell for 65, a reverse sweep off Nicholas plucked out of the air nicely by substitute fielder Nat Wraith at short third man.
Good support came from Du Preez, who hit 29 on her maiden Lightning innings, before 17-year-old seamer Alex Griffiths claimed her first KSL wicket, trapping the experienced former South Africa captain leg before with a full delivery. Georgia Adams made a useful 15 from 17 balls, Jenny Gunn cleared the boundary with her first hit and Kathryn Bryce, on her Lightning debut, struck the last ball of the innings for four but the total never seemed likely to be enough.
Storm, for whom Fran Wilson hit an unbeaten 33 and Davies took two for 24, couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the 2019 competition.
At the close of play Knight said: “It was nice to get a win. Probably, it wasn’t the most perfect performance, but the important thing was to start well. We were a bit sloppy in the field but at times we bowled really well.
“I thought Amy Jones batted really well to try to set up a score after they lost those three early wickets, but Rachel and Smriti gave us a really good start by getting runs on the board quickly.
“For myself, it was nice to contribute to a win, although I was disappointed to get out the way I did. I was trying to finish the game off too quickly.
“We feel like we have a strong side again. We’ve got some good young players and a new overseas in Deepti Sharma, who gives us something different. We have a core group that have been consistent for us for three years and we’ll be looking to make Finals Day again.”