Storm miss out at Trent Bridge

South Africa all-rounder Nadine de Klerk struck an unbeaten 106 as The Blaze fought back to beat Western Storm by four wickets in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy at Trent Bridge.

Chasing 276 for victory, the home side looked to be heading for a fifth defeat in six matches when they slipped to 137 for six following Natasha Wraith’s impressive career-best 73 in the Storm innings.

However, 24-year-old De Klerk turned things round in an unbroken 139-run partnership with 21-year-old wicketkeeper Ella Claridge (64 not out), whose half-century was her first in women’s regional cricket, as The Blaze won with 12 balls to spare.

Earlier, wicketkeeper-batter Wraith had shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 93 with skipper Sophie Luff (37), who had earlier put on 66 for the second wicket with Fran Wilson (34) before useful lower-order runs from Chloe Skelton (29 not out) helped Storm made light of the absence of England’s Heather Knight, Lauren Filer and Danielle Gibson to total to 275 in 48.1 overs.

Blaze captain Kirstie Gordon took four for 40 to lift her wickets tally to 11 for the campaign.

England opener Tammy Beaumont, not selected for the forthcoming T20 series against Pakistan Women, hit 41, sharing an opening partnership of 52 with Teresa Graves (24), but The Blaze looked likely to suffer again in the absence of England’s Nat Sciver-Brunt and Scotland internationals Kathryn and Sarah Bryce until De Klerk and Claridge’s heroics won the day.

The Blaze had won the toss and Sophie Munro removed Alex Griffiths with the second ball of the match courtesy of an edge to solitary slip Beaumont, but Gordon had to wait until the 14th over to see her decision to bowl first rewarded again, bringing about the breakthrough with her own left-arm spin as Wilson’s sweep flew off a top-edge to short fine leg.

Gordon followed up by bowling Smale to leave Storm 70 for three, after which the Blaze skipper looked to apply the squeeze with spin at both ends. But Wraith and Luff countered by going on the offensive, adding another 50 in just 40 deliveries, Wraith hitting a maximum down the ground off Gordon before knocking leg-spinner Josie Groves out of the attack with three fours in four balls.

The fourth-wicket pair plundered more runs against the off-spin of Lucy Higham before Groves, replacing England’s Sarah Glenn in the one change to the Blaze line-up, returned to have Luff caught at long-off thanks to an excellent catch on the run by Munro. Wraith continued unchecked, passing her previous best of 68 when she pulled left-armer Ballinger for her 11th four.

She fell in the next over, caught behind off a top-edge, and when Gordon then dismissed Katie Jones and Niamh Holland in the space of four deliveries, the home side looked to be wresting back control with Storm 207 for seven.

Yet Skelton, who hammered the unfortunate Ballinger for five consecutive fours, led the way as the Storm tail wagged vigorously, the last three wickets adding 68 vital runs, punctuated by a second success each for De Klerk and Munro before Graves ended the innings with her only delivery.

In reply, The Blaze were going well until the last over of the opening powerplay, when Smale struck with her first ball as Luff turned to spin for the first time. The left-armer induced the thinnest of tickles as Graves, who had played nicely for her 24, was caught behind on the leg side.

From 52 without loss, Blaze stumbled badly. Smale picked up the crucial wicket of Beaumont, whose swing and miss ended with her middle stump out of the ground, before leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington removed Marie Kelly with the help of an excellent catch by Griffiths at gully and had Beth Gammon leg before.

Gordon perished for 16, adjudged leg before trying to work Skelton’s off-spin through the on side, and Munro was bowled through the gate by seamer Griffiths.

Storm were now well on top with Blaze 137 for six, but there was no shifting De Klerk, who pounced on almost any delivery that was short or wide, completing her second half-century for the East Midlands side off 62 balls with six boundaries.

Having lost five partners before that milestone, she at last found one to stick with her in Claridge, who grew in confidence, her fifth boundary, forcefully driven through the covers off Skelton, bringing up a century partnership for the seventh wicket in 17 overs, with 37 needed from the final six overs.

De Klerk brought up her hundred from 112 balls with 12 fours before winning the match with a six slog-swept off Griffiths.

At the close of play, Sophie Luff said: “It is very disappointing. We probably didn’t get enough runs on what was a good wicket with a short boundary on one side.

“When we had them six down we felt the game was there to be won but Nadine batted really well and her hundred was very well deserved.  I think that was the difference between the teams. They had someone who went on to make a big score and we weren’t able to do that.

“The senior players needed to put their hands up. Myself and Fran Wilson, the most senior players in the team, were both guilty of getting to 30 and getting out when we needed to kick on and make bigger contributions.

“Having said that, when they were 130 for six we needed to be closing the game out better with the ball. We let it get away from us a little bit, we weren’t at our best and tidiest in the field and that’s something we need to look at leading into the Charlotte Edwards Cup.

“Nat Wraith did really well. She has been playing really well for us this season, contributing in pretty much every game. The tempo that she bats with in that middle order is just brilliant, she is choosing the right options at the right times, which is good to see in a young player.

“We’re nearer the bottom than the top in this competition at the moment, but I don’t think we are that far away. Some of those games could have been wins on our part and we could have been right at the top. It comes down to small margins and we are going to have to dust ourselves down and hope the change of format brings us a change of luck.”