When it comes to derby games, the result is often more important than the performance. Both sides went into this Charlotte Edwards Cup game at Leicester still looking for their first win in the T20 competition. However, a win by six wickets looked more comfortable than it was, as Lightning battled back after a poor batting display.
Issy Wong and Emily Arlott have both been on the England radar of late, opening the bowling; Wong immediately rearranged Bethany Harmer’s stumps second ball of the game and similarly accounted for Sarah Bryce her next over.
Lightning limped out of the powerplay on 15 for two, albeit with Abbey Freeborn and captain Kathryne Bryce in the middle; if they batted for most of the innings, a defendable total would have been possible.
When Freeborn misjudged the bounce of Georgia Davis, it “sparked” a collapse of seven wickets falling for just 15 runs. Davis’s four wickets for 12 runs included four lbws. A procession of batters trying to hit across the line. Cruelly for Sonia Odedra, it took the umpire an eternity to lift the finger of doom.
At the other end, Eve Jones accounted for Lightning skipper Kathryn Bryce for 7, Michaela Kirk for a first-ball duck and Kirstie Gordon, who supplied an easy return catch to finish with figures of three for 14.
Shachi Pai (18) and Sophie Munro (20), the last surviving Lightning pair, doubled their side’s score. Although 81 all out was never going to be a total to scare the Sparks batting lineup. At the halfway stage, the biggest question was just how quickly the Sparks would hit their way to victory.
Lightning never gave up, Lucy Higham and Kathryn Bryce gave nothing away in the opening overs, and when Munro came on in the third, there was some pressure on the Sparks batters, if only nominally. Munro bowled Marie Kelly with a full delivery before the next ball, doing the same thing to Milly Home.
Suddenly scoring runs quickly started to look difficult to do. At the end of the powerplay, Central Sparks were behind Lightning with the score on nine for two.
What Sparks had on their side was the experience of Jones and Gwen Davies, the run-rate was never going to be an issue for the pair, and they just had to dig in, milk the singles and wait to punish the bad ball.
It was going comfortably for the Sparks; they weren’t scoring particularly fast, but they had wickets left in the shed. Davies was the pick of the batters with a score of 31 from 49 balls; she was furious with herself when Higham bowled her. Higham’s four overs costing just ten runs for the wicket of Davies.
Thea Brookes took on the role of trying to find the boundary, and she did that twice in Odedra’s third over. It brought the rate down to just three an over with three overs to go.
There was still drama as Brookes was bowled for 21 by Bryce with eight runs still needed. Jones, though, saw her side home with six balls to spare as she cut Gordon for four.