Western Storm continued their perfect start to the Kia Super League with a thrilling five-wicket win over winless Lancashire Thunder at Chester Boughton Hall.
Smriti Mandhana’s superb 72 from just 43 balls was the mainstay of the Storm’s successful chase of 160 as the 2017 champions made it six wins from six.
Deepti Sharma struck the winning boundary off the penultimate ball.
Harmanpreet Kaur earlier made a half-century for Lancashire, sharing an 85-run stand with Tahlia McGrath, but it ultimately was not enough to secure victory.
Mandhana and Rachel Priest got Storm’s chase off to a flyer, reaching 39 in the fifth over. Priest hit Kate Cross for a six straight down the ground before the England seamer responded as Priest was caught by Kaur for 19.
But Mandhana’s innings was effortlessly brilliant. She scored all round the ground, demonstrating power and timing to take 16 from Sophie Ecclestone in the sixth over to end the power play at 57 for one.
The left-hander’s half-century came from just 27 balls, with eight fours and that six, and she just kept going.
The number one ranked one-day international batter in the world put on 67 with Heather Knight – the England captain contributing just 11 before she was caught in the deep off Ecclestone in the 13th over.
At 106 for two, that breakthrough gave Lancashire hope. And they built on that as Emma Lamb got the key wicket of Mandhana for 72, caught by Kaur on the boundary to leave Storm 119 for three in the 15th over.
Alex Hartley then dismissed Fran Wilson for 14 and Lancashire were right in the contest, with Storm requiring 32 from the final 24 balls.
But Sharma (23) saw the visitors home with the winning boundary coming off Cross’ penultimate delivery of the match.
Two boundaries came from the first three balls of the Thunder innings before England star Anya Shrubsole struck twice in consecutive deliveries to trap Sune Luus lbw for 4 and dismiss Sophia Dunkley for a first-ball duck.
McGrath played the anchor role in her partnership with Kaur, allowing the India star to offer the firepower.
The right-hander launched Sonia Odedra for the first six of the match in the seventh over and the fifty partnership came up in the ninth.
Odedra returned to the attack to be smashed for another six by Kaur and her half-century came from just 36 balls. But she fell to the next delivery as Alex Griffiths held a sensational one-handed catch, back-pedalling at mid-off.
Georgie Boyce then departed for a duck, removed by Knight who also did for Emma Lamb after a breezy 18 from 10 balls to leave Lancashire 121 for five with four overs remaining.
Shrubsole returned to claim her third wicket and end McGrath’s innings at 44 from 45 balls and Ellie Threlkeld was run out by Knight as the wickets tumbled.
Ecclestone provided some valuable late acceleration, launching Shrubsole over the sight screen to take 12 from the penultimate over, and alongside Kate Cross added 24 from the final two overs.
Captain Heather Knight said afterwards: “We just keep finding a way to win. I don’t think we have put together a complete performance yet in all three facets. I don’t think we played our best cricket today but we just got into the habit of winning which is quite nice and different people contributing.”
On Smriti Mandhana’s innings…
“It’s great to watch, best seat in the house. The pitch was a little bit slow as well and she made it look very easy. She’s found form in the last two games for us. Her and Rachel (Priest) are key for us at the top of the order, getting us off to starts so delighted for them and for Deepti (Sharma) at the end because she hasn’t had much of a chance yet.”
On Alex Griffith’s catch of Harmanpreet Kaur…
“Harman was going very well and taking the game away from us a little bit. She actually misjudged it dreadfully, it should have been a fairly easy catch. But glad she snaffled it in the end. She’s a young talent, very good in the field.
“I thought Anya bowled well today, the spinners were good again so there have been lots of people contributing. You need that in T20.”
On Surrey on Wednesday…
“We haven’t played Surrey yet so that’s going to be a big clash for us. We have the Vipers as well and Surrey again. We have a few big games coming up. Looks like those two teams are likely to make the finals as well so if we can perform well against them it will be great.
“Surrey were a bit of a bogey team for us last year so hopefully we can do well.”