Western Storm beat Loughborough Lightning by seven wickets
England captain Heather Knight shrugged off the disappointment of a heavy defeat in the Ashes to lead Western Storm to a winning start in the women’s Kia Super League.
Knight hit 44 as Storm eased to a seven-wicket win over the 2018 runners-up Loughborough Lightning, 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. But 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, neither of whom made a run.
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 put behind her dismal white ball form in the Ashes series to take charge, posting 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, fielder Danielle Gibson picking up an injury in the process, but might have had added to her seven boundaries but for Storm’s excellent ground fielding.
Jones lofted rookie Alex Griffiths for six over the short straight boundary and 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 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, have been the most consistent side since the KSL launched in 2016, appearing at every Finals Day so far and winning the competition in 2017. They will fancy themselves to go a long way again.
Western Storm’s winning captain Heather 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 in the season. 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 chasing the target by getting runs on the board quickly.
“For myself, it was nice for me 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.”
Lightning top scorer Amy Jones said:
“After losing early wickets like we did, it was difficult to come back and build a score and we were just short of runs in the end.
“We want to go out and bat positively up front but it is not always going to come off.
“I was pleased with the way I batted in the partnership with Mignon. She scored freely at the start and took pressure off me by finding the boundaries.
“It was good to get back out there but it was disappointing that we could not kick the season off win a win.”
©Cricket World 2019