Southern Vipers secured their third Kia Super League final after beating Loughborough Lightning by five wickets with an over to spare in the semi-final at Hove.
Chasing 144 for victory, Vipers were set up by an opening stand of 75 from just 39 balls by Suzie Bates and England international Danni Wyatt.
Lightning removed both batsmen in successive overs, but Vipers’ skipper Tammy Beaumont made 24 and Australian Amanda Jade-Wellington kept her nerve at the end with an unbeaten 18, including two boundaries in the 19th over off Sarah Glenn to seal victory and a place in the final against Western Storm later today.
Lightning, who were beaten in last year’s final, had been bowled out for 143 in 19.5 overs after winning toss, Bates finishing off their innings with three wickets from five balls in the final over.
Her performance typified an excellent bowling and fielding effort by Vipers which began when seamer Lauren Bell removed Jones, who’d scored 74 against them in last week’s group game, and Chamari Atapattu in the powerplay.
Jones (9) lost her leg stump playing a ramp shot and Atapattu (10) shuffled in front of a straight one with Lightning restricted to 34 for 2 during the first six overs. Their innings was rebuilt by skipper Georgia Elwiss and Georgia Adams, who added 55 in six overs for the third wicket.
Their momentum was lost when they departed in successive overs. Elwiss, who made 28 off 22 deliveries, came back for a second but was beaten by Wyatt’s accurate throw from the deep. Then in the 13th over Bates took a good catch at long-off to remove Adams for 28.
South African Mignon du Preez looked capable of providing some impetus at the back-end of the innings, hitting Fi Morris for six on her way to 21 from 11 balls before holing out to deep mid-wicket where Wyatt took one of three well-judged boundary catches.
Gunn made an unbeaten 14 but received little support from Loughborough’s tail. Bates finished with 3 for 23 and there were two wickets each for Bell and leg-spinner Wellington.
Vipers made a superb start to their chase as Bates and Wyatt matched each other shot for shot in an explosive powerplay which brought them 71, the second biggest powerplay score in the four-year history of the tournament.
Wyatt hit England team-mate Gunn for successive sixes in the second over to set the tone and Bates then cleared the ropes off Sarah Glenn. They also struck nine boundaries between them and it needed a great ball by Kirstie Gordon, which turned and hit off stump, to break the stand in the seventh over when Bates fell for 37 off 25 balls.
Wicketkeeper Jones produced a great piece of work to stump Wyatt for 31 off 17 in the next over and Elwiss then ran out Maia Bouchier with a direct hit. When Beaumont played on to Gunn in the 13th over, Vipers still needed 35 to win and their inexperienced middle-order was exposed.
Morris (7) was bowled by Elwiss playing across a straight one but Wellington and Paige Schofield chipped away to ensure the required rate never got above a run a ball and set up a repeat of the 2017 final which Vipers won.