If there were any concerns about the quality of the cricket in the Kia Super League, Ellyse Perry’s magnificent straight drive off Shabnam Ismael dismissed them.
If there were any concerns about the competitive spirit of the matches, the sight of Hollie Armitage and Jenny Gunn pointing at their bats in disbelief after being given out lbw, or Katherine Brunt exchanging sharp words with the Lightning fielders after being bowled, dismissed those.
The Yorkshire Diamonds raged against the dying of the light, but after Barnsley-born Brunt was gone, the game was clearly up for the hosts.
It was not the curtain-raiser Brunt had hoped to star in.
Just after 2.30pm, Brunt took the first wicket of the Kia Super League with her very first delivery. She found enough outswing to clip the edge of Dane van Niekerk’s bat and present an easy catch for Hollie Armitage at slip. She backed up the breakthrough with five perfectly placed dot balls, and her international quality was clear for all to see.
Just after the powerplay finished, Loughborough skipper Georgia Elwiss threw her wicket away by dancing down the track to Danielle Hazell, who pushed the ball out wider for an easy stumping. It was to become a theme of the Lightning’s innings.
Before that, however, the partnership of Sophie Devine and Ellyse Perry was a fine display of skill and nous. They stole singles to the fielders in the ring who were ever-so-slightly too deep, and Devine helped herself to boundaries off the weaker bowlers once Brunt and Ismael had been taken out of the attack.
There was a moment of minor dispute when Devine pushed Hazell to the third man boundary for four. The fielder chasing, Kent’s Alice Davidson-Richards, slipped, touched the rope, and returned the ball. An unimpressed Sophie Devine responded immediately with a boundary.
Shot of the day went to Ellyse Perry, who played a sumptuous straight drive to destroy a well-directed Ismael yorker. The combination of patience and power brought the Antipodean pairing a 50 partnership, and Loughborough were firmly on top.
That was until Ellyse Perry charged for a single that wasn’t there and was run out by some sharp work from wicketkeeper Beth Mooney. Amy Jones was gone before she had opened her eyes after a smart delivery from Hazell trapped her in front.
Sonia Odedra raced to 9 with two identical sweeps off Levick, but was superbly caught and bowled by Jenny Gunn when she smashed a quicker ball to the England medium pacer’s left. Devine perished in the next over, misjudging a big shot that was again well-held by Gunn, this time in the deep. Thea Brookes was run out, completing a dramatic collapse of 5-12.
Set a below-par 128 to win after a modest late-order recovery from Loughborough, Yorkshire hopes were further boosted when Amy Jones put down a relatively straightforward catch off Lauren Winfield.
Despite losing her partner to Perry’s first delivery, Winfield put her stamp on the match with five authoritative boundaries to take the hosts to 37-1.
A horrid mix-up ended her fabulous innings in the cruellest of fashions. After a seeming obstruction, she was well run-out despite a tumbling dive. Her 23 had come off just 13 balls, and her fury at her dismissal was evident as she lingered at the crease before throwing her bat and pads away in the dugout.
Tight bowling and regular wickets helped the Lightning claw their way back into the game, leaving Yorkshire’s fortunes in the hands of Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn.
The partnership between Brunt and Gunn was broken when Brunt missed a straight one from Georgia Elwiss, and Gunn followed when she failed to read a floaty full ball from Dane van Niekerk. Both players appeared to exchange warm words with the opposition, and Gunn appeared to address the umpire in less than cordial fashion.
The final coup de grace was delivered fittingly by the half-centurion Sophie Devine, who had Hazell caught at extra cover by Lightning’s captain Georgia Elwiss to end the hosts’ innings on 85. Yorkshire need to turn their fortunes around quickly if they are to finish in the top three, but Loughborough have pulled off a thoroughly deserved win with some high-quality cricket.