Words by Jon Culley, ECB Reporters Network
The Blaze made it four wins from four matches in the Charlotte Edwards Cup as they squeezed home by five wickets against holders Southern Vipers in a low-scoring match at the Incora County Ground in Derby.
The East Midlands representative side, who had never beaten the Vipers in their previous guise as Lightning, made it home with two balls to spare thanks to an unbeaten 49 from England opener Tammy Beaumont.
Batting first, Vipers were all out for 118 in 19.3 overs, skipper Georgia Adams top scoring with 31 as Nadine De Klerk, Kathryn Bryce and Sophie Munro took two wickets each.
The Vipers attack made sure an apparently easy chase was anything but for The Blaze, but Beaumont used all her know-how to ensure her side did not miss out.
Vipers were without key duo Charlie Dean and Lauren Bell, rested ahead of their upcoming England commitments, but The Blaze lost Nat Sciver-Brunt for the same reason and suffered a further blow when another of their England internationals, Sarah Glenn, had to pull out after suffering a back spasm in the warm-ups.
Put in on a slow, dry surface, Vipers were 40 without loss in the powerplay after Maia Bouchier and Danni Wyatt had profited from hitting the ball in the air over the fielders in the circle, aided by a quick outfield.
Yet wickets lost in each of the next three overs changed the tenor of the innings as Bouchier, Wyatt and Australian wicketkeeper-batter Nicole Faltum departed in quick order.
Bouchier, having pulled Kathryn Bryce for four, connected with a leading edge attempting to do the same, Bryce herself taking a well-judged catch. Wyatt drove left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon’s second ball straight to extra cover and Faltum lost her middle stump as Bryce claimed a second success.
From 44 without loss, Vipers were suddenly 49 for three and never recovered that early momentum, Adams unable to find a partner able to stick with her long enough to put any sustained pressure on the Blaze bowlers.
Freya Kemp, making her first appearance of the campaign, slog-swept Gordon for six but misjudged Lucy Higham’s off-spin and was bowled, before Georgia Elwiss handed 18-year-old leg-spinner Josie Groves a Blaze debut wicket somewhat unluckily, an inside edge hitting her foot and rolling on to the stumps.
Sophie Munro, whose sole powerplay over had cost 15 runs, came back well at the death, claiming the important wickets of Adams and Emily Windsor, while Nadine De Klerk, who went down so heavily in the field a few minutes earlier it seemed for a moment she would not continue, recovered so fully she was able to bowl Alice Monaghan middle stump and pin Mary Taylor in front, in between which Linsey Smith was run out at the non-striker’s end by an impressive direct hit by Beamont at mid-off, the last five Vipers wickets falling in the final four overs for 17 runs.
After that, Vipers needed a good powerplay if they were to put The Blaze under pressure and achieved it, restricting the home side to 31 runs and removing two key batters in Marie Kelly, who clipped left-arm spinner Smith straight to square leg, and Georgie Boyce, who chipped a return catch that Elwiss grabbed at head height.
Beaumont and Kathryn Bryce looked a combination that might take the game away from Vipers but against bowling that rarely offered easy runs were falling behind the required rate when the latter went down the pitch to off-spinner Adams and failed to connect, paying the price.
A tight over from third seamer Taylor left The Blaze needing 72 from 54 balls but a contrastingly costly over from Monaghan then tilted the balance back in the home side’s favour as the fourth-wicket pair plundered 25 runs, helped by a couple of no-balls, Beaumont ending it with three consecutive fours.
Smith claimed a second wicket when she beat Sarah Bryce’s swing but with Beaumont still there as a calm, experienced competitor The Blaze were able to edge home.