While Southern Brave’s top order never got going, they defended a total of 134 for 5, with Anya Shrubsole taking four for 20 as well as an unbeaten 40. In a game that offered star power, it delivered – even though Southern Brave ran out comfortable winners by 23 runs.
Kathrine Brunt set the tone first up in the face of Danni Wyatt and Smriti Mandhana. At her miserly best, Brunt conceded just one from her first set of five balls. After that, it put pressure on Brave’s explosive openers. Brunt didn’t take a wicket in the end, but her 20 balls cost just 18 runs.
With players like Rachael Haynes choosing not to travel, other stars from the WBBL took their places. However, Sammy-Jo Johnson is star quality in her own right, and she provided her new team with the breakthrough. Mandhana smashed Johnson’s first ball out towards Michaela Kirk, who is playing for Lightning and has gained a reputation for pulling off spectacular catches. She did just that today and the India international was dismissed without scoring.
With a top-four of Wyatt, Mandhana, Sophia Dunkley, and Stafanie Taylor, if a couple of them found the boundary often, they should beat most teams with ease. But, of those mentioned, it was only Taylor that found any rhythm.
Good bowling and fielding by the Rockets reduced Southern Brave to 13 for four after the first 19 balls. However, Taylor, along with captain Shrubsole, wasted little time in rescuing the innings.
Both played with few problems; Taylor top-scored with a 31 ball 45 not out (if only she had 20 more balls to get that 50). Shrubsole wasn’t far behind with 40 from 30 balls.
Trent Rockets, who bat deep, had the luxury of opening the batting with Rachel Priest and Johnson, both of whom are capable of clearing the ropes. Both went in the first eight balls, but that didn’t bother Nat Sciver or Brunt. Both played sensibly and knew when to take on the bad ball. Sciver capitalised on a series of loose balls on her leg stump. However, it was her driving down the ground that was the absolute pleasure to see.
It was starting to feel like the experience of Sciver and Brunt would get Trent Rockets home. Lauren Bell, the tall fast bowler, had other ideas though, bowling Sciver, who tried to swipe it through mid-wicket.
Brunt followed two balls later after trying to hit through mid-wicket, but Taylor was the bowler, and Maia Bouchier took a comfortable catch.
The runs per ball continued to creep up and, despite the efforts of Heather Graham, it proved too much for the Trent Rockets, who could not find the boundaries needed. Graham scored 25 from just 17 balls. Trent Rockets failed to get after Amanda-Jade Wellington, whose 20 balls cost just ten runs.
Trent Rockets go again on Monday, and you feel there will be a positive response from them. Southern Brave make the journey to Cardiff in a jubilant mood and will be difficult to beat.