Western Storm reaped the benefit of some quite brilliant fielding at the Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton to kick off their Kia Super League season with a four wicket victory over Lancashire Thunder.
In front of almost 1200 supporters, the west country women, led by England Captain Heather Knight, were sublime in the field as Lancashire slipped unceremoniously from 67 for 5 to 83 all out.
The New Zealander Lizelle Lee took two outstanding catches in the deep with Cait O’Keefe following suit with one of her own. Then, Knight, dived full length to her right to snap up a caught and bowled of the highest quality.
With Knight leading the way the Storm withstood a concerted bowling effort from the Thunder to eventually reach their target in the 16th over.
Having chosen to bat first, Thunder lost their opening wicket in the fourth over when Lee plucked a wonderful catch from the afternoon sky to bring about the downfall of 18-year-old Hayley Matthews. New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite followed Matthews back to the pavilion in the ninth over when she was bowled by Jodie Dibble for 13. Emma Lamb and Deandra Dottin added 24 for the third wicket before the former became Stefanie Taylor’s first victim of the day – once again superbly caught by the acrobatic Lee for 25.
Thereafter, Storm turned the screw and with Taylor and Knight bowling well in tandem, Lancashire simply had no answer.
Deandra Dottin struck two boundaries before O’Keefe took a running catch at long on at 65 for 4 and although the situation was far from desperate, the visitors were soon staring down the barrel of a below par total.
Both Knight and Taylor took wickets in successive balls in the 15th and 16th overs respectively as Lancashire capitulated in the closing overs. In the end they were bowled out for 83, in the 19th over, with Knight helping herself to three for 11 and Taylor weighing in with the figures of four for 14.
Although the Storm lost Rachel Priest off the eighth ball of the innings for two they chipped away at their target with real purpose. Taylor and Knight, once again, led the way with a second wicket partnership of 35 before the West Indian Taylor was well stumped by Satterthwaite off the bowling of Matthews for 14. Knight continued to accumulate runs, despite some decent bowling. She hit the occasional bad ball to the boundary and used all her experience to work the good balls for ones and twos.
Lancashire did apply some genuine pressure when Dottin (three for eight) picked up the wickets of Fran Wilson (16) and Lee (0), in her first over and Sophie Ecclestone bowled Knight for 23 at 65 for five.
With the pressure now on Western Storm, it took a sixth wicket partnership of 15 between Sophie Luff and Georgia Hennessy to settle the nerves and help the hosts towards a four wicket win with 27 balls to spare.
After the match Heather Knight said: “It’s great to get off to a winning start and great to see so many people here enjoying the experience. I felt we bowled magnificently. We are probably better known as a batting side, but I thought the girls were really good with the ball. To keep them to such a low score, when you consider what they have in their line up, was fantastic.
“I thought we batted quite well, but then we had a bit of a wobble and we needed to settle it down. But we got there in the end and all credit to the girls for that.”
For the match-day scorecard click here
The Western Storm line up was: Stafanie Taylor, Rachel Priest+, Heather Knight*, Fran Wilson, Lizelle Lee, Sophie Luff, Georgia Hennessy, Anya Shrubsole, Jodie Dibble, Cait O’Keefe, Freya Davies.