Words by Alex Smith, ECB Reporters Network
Lauren Bell underlined her England credentials with a spell-binding three for 12 as Southern Vipers swatted Lightning aside by 31 runs in the Charlotte Edwards Cup.
Towering right-arm swing bowler Bell is considered among the favourites to replace the internationally retired Anya Shrubsole and make her debut for Lisa Keightley’s team this summer. She put on a new-ball clinic to claim two for two from her first two overs, before she returned her career-best T20 bowling figures.
Maia Bouchier continued her fine start to the season with a mighty 41 as Vipers garnered 155 for five, before Lightning spluttered to 124 for eight after Bell's antics – with skipper Kathryn Bryce top-scoring with 54.
Vipers are now two comprehensive victories from two in this year’s tournament, while Lightning are still yet to secure a point across two seasons.
Bell has a metronomic run-up which springs into an explosion of a high front arm and high-to-low action which naturally brings prodigious in-swing. Marie Kelly attempted to negate this by walking down the pitch, but got cramped by a cross-seam delivery to sky to keeper Carla Rudd.
Sarah Bryce tried the opposite and stayed still for as long as possible. The Scotland international got stuck on her crease as an in-ducker knocked over her off pole, via a deflection off the thigh pad.
Bell’s sights were now on England opener Tammy Beaumont. She drew a leading-edge, only for it to fall agonisingly short of mid-on, but criminology student Bell got her high-profile victim in the following over when she yorked her. She should have pouched a four-for only for Rudd to spill Teresa Graves – who lived a charmed life with Nancy Harman also dropping her.
Vipers simply kept it tight from then on, allowing the required rate to rocket. Kathryn Bryce’s battling 47-ball half-century aside, no Lightning batter past 17. Charlie Dean claimed three for 23 and Georgia Elwiss two for 18 to complete the simply triumph.
Earlier, Vipers were stuck in and despite losing Georgia Adams to a simple deep square boundary catch, Danni Wyatt and Bouchier used their textbook power to contribute a quickfire 43 for the second wicket before the former was caught on the ring.
Bouchier, who began the campaign with an unbeaten 48, found the middle of her bat for the sweetest of sixes over midwicket before advancing and pumping Lucy Higham back over her head for another maximum.
Vipers, and Bouchier, were slowed by a brilliant 13th to 16th over fight back. Vipers appeared on course for a huge total at 100 for two but slumped to 110 for five – with a wicket falling in each over.
First Elwiss top-edged straight up off Piepa Cleary, then Kirstie Gordon bowled Bouchier through the gate with a wonderful arm ball before Paige Scholfield advanced and hoicked to extra cover.
Freya Kemp and Dean added 45 in the last five overs to swing the momentum back Vipers’ way, and the barometer never moved back after Bell dislodged the visitors’ top order.