Last year’s player of the competition Stafanie Taylor became the first bowler to claim a second four-wicket haul in the Kia Super League, as she turned the Loughborough Lightning innings on its head to deliver a crucial comeback victory for the Western Storm at Taunton.
Amy Jones and Ellyse Perry opened comfortably on a good flat pitch, with Jones in a particularly aggressive mood, striking five boundaries from her first 11 balls. After she struck Freya Davies firmly to mid on, Perry rebuilt the innings with composure and class.
The turning point was a suicidal run from Perry. She hit the ball straight to Taylor, who sprang forward to run out the Australian all-rounder for 25. It was to prove a costly brain fade from the experienced international, whose wicket was especially valuable given the absence of her compatriot Ellyse Villani with a shoulder injury.
An over later, Taylor was brought on to bowl her seemingly innocuous off spin. She is not a big turner of the ball, and with her second delivery she deceived Lightning Captain Georgia Elwiss to trap her lbw for one. Two balls later, Sonia Odedra skipped down the track and was ably stumped by Rachel Priest, who was solid with the gloves throughout.
With the final ball of the over, Thea Brookes also fell victim to Taylor’s lack of spin, pinned right in front of her stumps. A single followed from Taylor’s second over, and she added Paige Scholfield thanks to a sharp catch from Priest off a thick edge. Her final over yielded three runs to leave her with outstanding figures of 4-5.
Only injured Storm teammate Anya Shrubsole has better innings figures in the KSL (5-23 against the Yorkshire Diamonds at Headingley), but the run-out as well as her 20 dot balls in four overs had a devastating effect on Loughborough Lightning’s progress. They limped to 108-9, far from a par score on a docile wicket.
Lightning had the perfect start to their tight defence, though, when Kristen Beams followed four dot balls with the wicket of Rachel Priest, trying to heave a cut but being bowled. Heather Knight kept the Storm well within striking distance with a steady 24, but she fell victim to a superb piece of fielding from Lucy Higham, who executed an excellent stop and throw to remove the England captain.
The teams were engaged in a standoff and Georgia Hennessy was just starting to look dangerous before she gifted her wicket to Elwiss, caught by Perry for 23. The required run rate continued to hover around six an over, teasing the hopes of Lightning fans, but Taylor batted outstandingly from the moment she came to the crease.
A steady stream of dot balls and singles left the girls in green needing 24 off the final three overs, but Taylor and Luff took Rebecca Grundy’s spin apart at the death. Even though Taylor could not quite finish the job, she had taken her side to within two runs of victory.
Elysse Perry was given the final over and needed a maiden to tie – unfortunately from a Lightning perspective, Sophie Luff took a single off the first ball to secure a reassuring return to form for last year’s runners-up following their thrashing from the Southern Vipers on Thursday.
Despite the defeat, there were some encouraging signs for Loughborough Lightning, particularly in how close they made the match given their low total and the quality of the pitch. They now move on to face the Vipers at Derby on Tuesday – a game they can ill afford to lose in this short, sharp tournament.