Southern Vipers' Road To The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final

Relive Southern Vipers' journey as they look to defend the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy for a third time against Northern Diamonds

Three years since the women’s regional hubs were created, and at the end of each year, the Southern Vipers have found themselves in the final of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

Each year, it has been their northern counterparts, Northern Diamonds, doing battle with them, first at Edgbaston, then Northampton, and now the grandest stage of them all – Lord’s.

To say the Vipers have been dominant in 2022 is somewhat of an understatement.

They have played 14 matches, won 13, and lost just once – a win rate of 93%.

Only their fellow finalists the Northern Diamonds have beaten them this year, as a run-a-ball 125 from England batter Lauren Winfield-Hill saw the blue side straight through to the final.

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The Vipers started the competition with a nervy rain-affected win against Central Sparks at the Edgbaston Community Stadium.

Wickets were shared around between the bowlers as the orange Vipers kept the home side to 163-7 in their stop-start 36 overs.

With rain the mutual enemy between both sides never really letting up, the Vipers’ innings was reduced to just ten overs, with 70 runs required.

Who else but Danni Wyatt to get the visitors off to a lightning start, as she ended up 36* off just 24 balls, with all-rounder Georgia Elwiss facing one ball, and sending it over the rope for six to win the game, and seal a seven-wicket victory.

The next game was arguably the most dominant of them all, against South East Stars at Hove.

After a shaky start, it was Georgia Elwiss and Emily Windsor who rebuilt the innings from 74-4 to 234-5.

The former sealed a fabulous century, ending up on a run-a-ball 115, whilst Portsmouth-born Windsor secured her first Vipers fifty, before freeing her arms and unleashing boundary after boundary, before she was bowled ten runs shy of what would’ve been a quite scintillating century.

An onslaught of 40 (23) from Freya Kemp helped the Vipers past 300, with the full eleven getting out to the middle.

A strong start by the Stars was then broken by the 17-year-old, before spinners Taylor and Adams got in on the action, and the Stars top three were back in the hut.

The rest of the bowlers once again shared the wickets, with Scholfield polishing off the tail to finish with 3-29 off 5.4 overs, and victory was secured by 133 runs.

A trip to Derby was next for the Vipers, on World Snake Day. Captain Adams, along with Ella McCaughan put the venom into the Vipers’ batting, with an opening stand of 153, as both batters made it past 70.

Windsor was once again in the runs, ending up on 47* - the same score when she hit the winning runs in last year’s RHF Trophy final – and along with a quickfire 23* from Nancy Harman, the Vipers ended up six runs shy of a triple century.

An early wicket by Scholfield gave the Vipers’ a way in, as Charlotte Taylor picked up her first of three wickets three overs later.

A partnership of 60 between Sarah Bryce and Bethan Ellis came to an end thanks to more spin, this time of Harman, as she had Bryce caught for 49, before half-centurion Josie Groves was also caught for 55.

The bowlers, as so often was the case, strangled the Lightning line-up like a boa constrictor, and Tara Norris took the final wicket of Alicia Presland to bowl the home side out for 228, winning by 66 runs.

The final game before the Hundred break came at The Ageas Bowl against Sunrisers in what would be their closest game of the tournament.

A dream start by the visitors left the Vipers reeling at 38-5, as Adams, McCaughan, Dean, Elwiss, and Windsor were all send back, with only the openers making it to double figures, as seamer Kate Coppack recorded a career-best 4-48.

Cue Paige Scholfield and keeper Chloe Hill.

The latter took her time to get going, whilst the former looked to attack – as the fifty partnership was brought up in just 45 balls.

It took less than ten overs for the pairing to double the team’s score to 100, and when Scholfield reached her own half-century, things had gone from looking bleak to somewhat bright, as the score ticked past 125 at the halfway point.

After an hour in the middle, Scholfield and Hill brought up their century stand, with the team 150 coming up soon after the all-rounder departed for 74 at more than a run-a-ball.

Hill notched up her first fifty in a Vipers shirt, and contributions from Norris, Harman, and Lauren Bell, ended the innings on 233-9.

The Sunrisers’ reply got off to a slow start for both sides, as wickets and runs were hard to come by, but it was the off spin of Charlie Dean that did the initial damage.

Grace Scrivens was the first to fall for 15, followed by Naomi Dattani for 34 and then Mady Villiers for 9, as Dean clattered into the stumps of all three.

Adams then had the key wicket of mainstay Cordelia Griffith for 65, before Elwiss cleaned up Mia Rogers, as the visitors now needed seven an over to win, with just four wickets in hand.

Jo Gardner offered some resistance, and gave Vipers fans some worry, as she took the attack to the home side, launching a six off Taylor, before sweeping Elwiss.

Wickets kept falling though, as Jess Olorenshaw was bowled by Bell for 14, and a good throw in the deep from Dean ran captain Kelly Castle out, and Adams defended the 17 runs, conceding just five off the final over to secure victory by 11 runs.

In the tournament’s month off, Charlotte Edwards’ Southern Brave made the final of the Hundred, but it was Emily Windsor who had the last laugh, as she cut Tahlia McGrath for four to hit the winning runs once more, as Oval Invincibles lifted the women’s Hundred trophy for the second time in a row.

The first weekend back for the Vipers was halved, after the country, and indeed the world, came to a standstill after the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, with the fifth round of fixtures proving impossible to be rescheduled.

It was once more to The Ageas Bowl against a Thunder side without Sophie Ecclestone or Kate Cross, but with the World Boss, Deandra Dottin.

However, it was American-born Norris who was the undoing of the West Indian, and the Thunder top order.

Seren Smale lost her off stump first ball, and Laura Marshall was trapped lbw, before some sharp work behind the stumps by Carla Rudd caught the edge of Dottin, and all three were dismissed for single figures.

England’s Emma Lamb, along with captain Ellie Threlkeld proved an annoyance to the Vipers, as the two put on 116 together, before the home side’s leading wicket-taker, Scholfield, had Lamb caught by Adams for 63.

Threlkeld continued on to 79 but found support hard to come by, as Shachi Pai was lbw first ball, with only Liberty Heap and Daisy Mullan making it to double figures down the order, as Thunder were bowled out for 203.

The visitors fought back well, as a combination of Laura Jackson and Phoebe Graham sent back the Vipers’ top three with just 29 runs on the board.

Adams and Scholfield steadied the ship before Windsor and Hill took the game away from Thunder, as a partnership of 89 and a fifty from Windsor took the Vipers to within 14 runs, with Norris knocking off 12 of them as victory was sealed by four wickets, with three overs to spare.

Then, it was the long trip to Leeds to face the three-year-old foe.

Another tricky start was rescued by Elwiss (61) and Adams (33), but the leg spin twins of Katie Levick and Hollie Armitage did the damage for the Diamonds, with only Windsor proving some resistance, as her sensational season continued with a 49*, as the visiting side struggled to 226-9.

Norris once again struck early, removing Linsey Smith for a couple, before Adams dismissed her opposite number Armitage for 24.

Lauren Winfield-Hill remained unflustered however, continuing her good form from the Hundred, and put on 129 for the fifth wicket with young keeper Bess Heath (54) after a couple of wickets for debutant Finty Trussler.

The aggressive duo of Winfield-Hill and Heath chipped away at the Vipers’ hope to go straight into the final, as the England opener recorded her century off 105 balls, with Heath’s fifty not long after.

The Diamonds’ 200 was brought up after 37 overs, and Winfield-Hill saw the home side over the line by four wickets, with seven overs remaining.

The trip to Beckenham put some fire in the Vipers’ bellies, as a dominant bowling display restricted the Stars to 139 all out inside 43 overs, Jemima Spence the sole resistance for the third-placed side with 45*.

Norris once again was on the money early, dismissing Chloe Brewer and Stars skipper Bryony Smith for single figures, before picking up her third later in the innings.

Debutant Mary Taylor was also in the wickets, as she took a marvellous 2-22 in five overs, with Trussler also picking up a couple in the wickets’ column.

McCaughan and Maia Bouchier, who was released by England to play, got off to a useful start – the former more cautious whilst her counterpart was the aggressor.

The opening stand lasted until the halfway point, by which point two thirds of the runs had already been ticked off, as a half-century by Bouchier and 47 from McCaughan took the Vipers to 110-2.

A slight wobble came about in the form of Adams falling for a single, and Scholfield being cleaned up with the scores level, but who else but Emily Windsor to score the winning runs, for the third time in a season, as she drove Dani Gregory for four to seal victory by six wickets, and the Vipers’ place in a third consecutive Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final.

Tickets for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy are available from £15 for adults and £5 for Under 16s via the link below.

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