Storm edged out by Stars

Alice Davidson-Richards held her nerve to usher South East Stars to a hard-fought three-wicket win over Western Storm in a thrilling Charlotte Edwards Cup contest at the Seat Unique Stadium in Bristol.

Chasing a modest target of 110, Stars squeezed home with three balls to spare thanks, in large part, to a pugnacious innings of 35 from 25 balls from Davidson-Richards, who mustered five boundaries to help the visitors recover from 76-6 in the 16th over.

Bryony Smith contributed a useful 24 at the top of the order, but spinners Sophia Smale and Claire Nicholas claimed 2-18 and 1-19 respectively to ensure Stars did not have things all their own way.

Intent upon maintaining pressure on Group B leaders Central Sparks, Stars staged an impressive bowling performance, Kalea Moore producing a startling burst of three wickets for two runs in eight balls to put the skids under Storm, who came up short on 109-8 after being put in. The teenage off spinner was backed up by England international Freya Davies, who bowled superbly with the new ball and at the death to finish with figures of 2-17, while leg spinner Danielle Gregory kept things tight in a disciplined spell of 1-17 from three overs.

Only Georgia Hennessy, who made 27, and the experienced Fran Wilson, who contributed 33 not out from 30 balls, enjoyed any success with the bat as Storm struggled to build momentum in an innings that yielded a mere eight boundaries.

Just as they did when defeating Storm by seven wickets at Beckenham last month, Stars elected to field and immediately applied pressure, new ball bowlers Davies and Alexa Stonehouse adhering to the tenets of line and length to nullify a powerplay that yielded just 24 runs and featured a meagre three boundaries. Eager to impress against former team-mates, Davies struck in the first over, inducing Fi Morris to nick behind without scoring, and she might have had a second wicket when spilling a tough return catch off Hennessy, who was afforded a life on nine in the fifth over.

Taking the pace off paid dividends on a characteristically slow Bristol pitch, Bryony Smith and Gregory frustrating the second wicket pair of Hennessy and Sophie Luff, who were forced into taking risks against the spinners in an attempt to provide the innings with much-needed impetus. Dropped on 10 by Capsey at square leg in the previous over, talismanic Storm captain Luff succumbed to Gregory’s leg breaks in the ninth, next over, skying a catch to Alice Davidson-Richards at long-on and departing for 13 with the score on 33.

Understanding the importance of finding the gaps and running hard, Wilson called Hennessy through for a second run, only for the opener to be run out by Phoebe Franklin’s throw from deep mid-wicket as Storm slipped to 46-3. Hennessy had scored a battling 27 from 31 balls with three boundaries and her departure sparked a mini-collapse during the crucial middle overs.

Called upon in the 13th over and deployed from the Ashley Down Road end, Moore single-handedly dismantled the middle order, striking with her third ball to bowl hard-hitting Danielle Gibson for six before making a mess of Nat Wraith’s stumps and having Katie George held at mid-off as the home side lurched to 57-6 in the 15th.

Thereafter, Wilson and Alex Griffiths were at least able to score at a run a ball to stage a partial recovery in a seventh wicket alliance of 31 in 4.1 overs. Griffiths offered a return catch to Capsey in the penultimate over and went for 16, while Niamh Holland was bowled by Davies, leaving Wilson undefeated on 33.

Determined to make a fight of it, Storm reduced the visitors to 43-4 inside nine overs. Claire Nicholas induced Aylish Cranstone to hit to mid-off and then held a catch at backward square off the bowling of Smale to remove Sofia Dunkley, while Smith, having harvested a quartet of fours in making 24 from 28 balls, holed put to Gibson at long-off in the act of driving. Smale struck again in her next over to account for Capsey, at which point the game was in the balance.

Requiring 58 runs off 10 overs with six wickets in hand, Stars were in need of a steadying influence. Instead, Franklin lost her off stump to George to further sow seeds of doubt.

Moore and Davidson-Richards then staged a restorative stand of 21 in 4.2 overs to help calm any nerves, only for the former to be run out for 13 by Hennessy just when she was beginning to find fluency. When Davidson-Richards was run out by Wilson in the 18th over, Stars still needed 15 runs from 16 balls.

Meeting the demands of the day in fine style, Stonehouse and Kira Chathli plundered 11 runs off the penultimate over, sent down by Gibson, to take the heat out of the situation.

At the close of play, Wilson said: “We came up just short with the bat, especially in the power-play. I thought 120 would have been a par score on that pitch, because it was sticky and the ball wasn’t coming on, especially after it went soft. In the end, we did quite well to get up to 109 and give the bowlers something to defend. We bowled and fielded really well and, at one stage, I actually thought we would go on and win the game. We’re not the finished article, but we put up a great fight and refused to give in.  We were in control, but they just managed to get away from us at the end.”