Western Storm completed the double over Loughborough Lightning
Rachel Priest rediscovered her touch to propel top-of-the-table Western Storm to a 40-run Kia Super League victory over Loughborough Lightning at the Bristol County Ground.
Western Storm 158 - for 4 wickets
Loughborough Lightning 118 all out
Western Storm win by 40 runs
The former New Zealand international opener top-scored with 55 from 43 balls and shared in stands of 47 and 64 with Smriti Mandhana and Heather Knight for the first and second wickets respectively as Storm posted 158-4 after being put in.
Lightning never recovered from the loss of early wickets and were dismissed for 118 in 18.2 overs, undone by England pace bowler Freya Davies, who claimed 4-27.
Bidding to reach Finals Day for a fourth consecutive season, Storm completed the double over Lightning and now boast a 100 per cent record from four games in 2019.
Having chased successfully in their opening three outings, Storm found themselves in the unaccustomed position of posting a score and defending it.
Hitherto short of runs, Priest and Mandhana set the tone in a fast-scoring opening stand that spanned 5.2 overs and laid solid foundations. Yet to post 50 this season, Indian star Mandhana plundered three successive fours at the expense of Sri Lankan off spinner Chamari Atapattu. But her serene progress was terminated in the next over, the 23-year-old left-hander hoisting a half volley from Kathryn Bryce to deep mid-wicket and departing for a 22-ball 29.
Thereafter, Priest seized the initiative, sweeping and cutting to good effect against a Lightning attack that sought to take pace off the ball on a slow pitch. Understanding what was possible in the conditions, Storm's experienced opener scored a majority of her runs backward of square, running well between the wickets and accruing 8 fours, most of them the product of deft placement.
Afforded a life when dropped in the deep by Matthews off the bowling of Jenny Gunn when on 35, Priest eventually perished in the 14th over with the score 111, held at deep mid-wicket in the act of trying to hit Matthews for six.
If Lightning believed her dismissal would bring them much-needed relief, they were quickly disabused of the idea by in-form England captain Knight, who ensured there was no let-up in the rate by striking 3 fours and 2 sixes in an impressive innings of 45 from 37 balls. Knight was within sight of a third 50 in as many matches when, attempting to straight drive Georgia Elwiss, she was superbly caught one-handed by Georgia Adams running round from mid-off.
Quick between the wickets, Sophie Luff (12 not out) and Deepti Sharma (10 not out) then added 19 for the fifth wicket as Storm produced a strong finish.
In need of a fast start, Lightning lost Matthews and Atapattu during a powerplay which yielded just 30 runs. Matthews was pinned lbw by Davies for two, while overseas star Atapattu lost her off stump to off spinner Claire Nicholas.
Worse followed when Amy Jones, having scored 20 from 17 balls, was run out by Knight in pursuit of a dubious single, while skipper Elwiss slapped Knight straight to deep long-on for 12 as Lightning subsided to 55-4 at halfway.
Davies claimed two wickets in five balls in the 15th over, removing Adams for 17 and South African DuPreez for 30, Gunn fell to Sharma for four and Sarah Glenn was run out by Naomi Dattani as Storm tightened the screw.
Davies completed a fine performance by having Tara Norris caught at the wicket, while Sharma trapped Gordon lbw to signal the end with 10 deliveries unused.
Western Storm captain Heather Knight said: "We're building good momentum and we're on a bit of a roll, but I feel we still haven't played our best cricket. There were aspects of our game we can improve upon and our fielding could certainly have been better today. But I have to be pleased with the win, especially as we now go on the road on our northern min-tour with gamesd against Yorkshire and Lancashire.
"It was a difficult pitch to score quickly on and we felt 160 would be a really good score. Smriti Mandhana and Rachel Priest have given us some great platfiorms and they made sure we got off to a perfect start in this game. It was especially pleasing to see Rachel score that half century. I was just getting going and backing myself to make a really big score when I got out, which was a bit disappointing. But we were really pleased with that total and backed ourselves to defend it.
"Freya Davies was outstanding with the ball and looked every inch an England bowler, while the slower bowlers agauin kept things tight. Fortunately, dropped catches didn't cost us."
Lightning skipper Georgia Elwiss said: "We felt we were in the game at the halfway stage, but then lost too many early wickets to put ourselves in contention. Storm bowled really well and we weren't able to put together the two or three decent partnerships that we knew we would need..
"We put them in on a tricky pitch, but allowed them too many four balls. We were a bit loose and struggled to exert pressure from both ends. That's probably why I ended up using eight bowlers!
"We still haven't played our best cricket, but the new players are fitting in well and I feel there is still a chance for us to qualify. We just need that little bit more consistency."