It may not be part of any Women’s World Cup highlights reels, but Anya Shrubsole’s crucial bowling spell at Lord’s in late July started with an over that included three wides as she struggled to find her line with a swinging ball.
So, when Tash Farrant’s first two balls elicited the familiar double-arm raise from the umpire, perhaps we should have seen what was coming.
Farrant, who has not featured for England for three years, provided a timely reminder in front of England coach Mark Robinson that she is, at 21, very much a part of the future of the international side.
Her spell of 2-10 off her four overs set the tone for a dominant Vipers performance in the field. It started in her second over when Rachel Priest chased an out-swinger and edged behind to Carla Rudd, who was outstanding behind the stumps throughout the Storm innings.
Anya Shrubsole is part of the Storm attack this season, but was ruled out of this encounter with a side strain. Even if she had been fit, this game may have been beyond even her considerable powers, as regular wickets prevented last year’s runners-up from getting anywhere near a competitive total to exact revenge for the 2016 final at Chelmsford.
Shortly after Priest’s departure, England captain Heather Knight tried to punish Linsey Smith for dropping short and bowling slowly, but was through her pull shot far too quickly and under-edged onto her stumps.
Georgia Hennessy rebuilt in the company of the West Indies’ Stafanie Taylor, even crunching a free hit off veteran Arran Brindle to the ropes for four in an over that saw two fours and one six.
Those three were the only boundaries in the entire Storm innings, however, and when she got her legs in a muddle and was trapped lbw to Suzie Bates’ second ball, her team collapsed in an ugly green heap.
Tash Farrant returned to remove Taylor who was caught at mid off by Charlotte Edwards after a nervous juggle. There were no nerves from the former England skipper in the next over, when she nailed a direct hit to run out Sophie Luff for a duck.
Fran Wilson was dropped off Suzie Bates’ third over, but Bates reacted perfectly by catching Alice Macleod the very next ball. Wilson, the second member of the Storm side present in England’s World Cup-winning team, was caught behind shortly after by Carla Rudd, again chasing an outswinging delivery.
The West Indies’ Hayley Matthews chipped in by bowling Clare Nicholas, and the rout was completed when Freya Davies was run out.
Chasing just 71 to win, the formidable Vipers batting line-up made a confident start, with Suzie Bates middling the first delivery along the ground to mid-on. She survived a close run-out in the opening over, but along with Hayley Matthews she provided a classy display of how to bat on a wicket that isn’t offering much pace.
The centrepiece of Bates’ innings was the fourth over. She produced a couple of beautiful shots to tear up the confidence of her New Zealand team mate, Holly Huddlestone.
In the second half of the over, Huddlestone simply couldn’t keep her heel behind the no-ball line: a tough over became a disaster as ball after ball was punished, first by Bates and then by the umpire.
By the time Bates punted a single into the leg side, Huddlestone had bowled ten deliveries and conceded 33 runs, almost half of the Storm total.
There can’t have been too many times a chasing side has scored 47.9% of their target in an over. Taylor claimed a consolation wicket, but the Vipers won with an enormous 11 overs remaining.
Their title defence is underway, while the Storm will need the wind to change direction rapidly if they are to make a second consecutive appearance at KSL finals day.