Words by Bruce Talbot, ECB Reporters Network
Central Sparks avenged their three wicket defeat by Southern Vipers at Wormsley earlier this month with victory by six wickets in this Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy match at Hove.
Chasing a modest 181, Sparks looked in little trouble from the moment their captain, Eve Jones, cut the second delivery of the innings from Lauren Bell to third man for four and they romped home with 8.4 overs to spare.
They lost their first wicket at 68, in the 20th over, when Abigail Freeman, driving, was bowled by Georgia Elwiss for 28. After that their biggest setback came when the players came off for rain – and even then they had a superior run-rate.
The result was confirmed by a second wicket partnership of 85 in 15 overs between Jones (73) and her right-handed namesake Amy Jones (40), who picked up the scoring rate and raised the 100 in the 26th over when she hit Linsey Smith for successive fours.
There were three more boundaries in her eye-catching, run-a-ball innings. The Vipers bowlers could simply not keep up with the Joneses and their fielding flagged too as the result became inevitable in the warm afternoon sunshine.
By the time Eva Jones was out, to the last ball of the 38th over, chipping a return catch to Elwiss, Sparks were just 12 runs short of victory. The captain had led from the front, facing 124 balls and hitting seven fours. The Vipers innings of 180 from 47.2 overs was a disappointment and represented a considerable comeback from Sparks who looked likely to be on the receiving end of a total of well over 200.
Sparks had won two of their previous four matches and on each occasion had chosen to bowl. They did so again here, despite the good looking pitch, and had cause to regret the decision when Vipers opener Ella McCaughan, after making her customary solid start, decided to play more shots on the way to her 90-ball 59, with six fours.
She lost opening partner Maia Boucher in the third over and then Australian debutant Nicole Faltum ramped Izzy Wong straight to third man. But when Vipers were 96 for two in the 25th they looked confident of setting a more robust total.
They were undone, mostly, by the Australian Erin Burns, an exciting signing for this season, who will be available until the end of July. Burns is really a batting all-rounder but it was her off-spin which shone yesterday, as she returned figures of 5-38 from her 10 overs, including the important wicket of McCaughan, who was caught, sweeping, at short fine-leg. The middle order collapse saw Vipers lose six wickets for 42 runs with captain and key batsman Georgia Adams making the second best score of 29.
With the pacey but erratic Wong withdrawn from the attack after bowling another beamer at the start of her ninth over, Burns was supported by Georgia Davis (3-19) but the steadiest of the bowlers was Emily Arlott, even though she took just one wicket on the ground where she took a hat-trick last year.