A captain’s performance from Dane van Niekerk sealed victory for her Oval Invincibles. It was a crushing eight-wicket win with three balls to spare. With things starting to hot up in the table, this was a game that neither side could afford to lose. The Oval Invincibles in third place can feel the teams below them breathing down their necks, and for Birmingham Phoenix, they are playing keep up.
Therefore, it was disappointing for the home side to be 28 for three as they emerged from the powerplay. Shafali Verma and Katie Mack had briefly threatened to get the Phoenix off to a flyer. Instead, they fell quickly, as did Amy Jones, who skipped past a van Niekerk delivery.
An innings of 45 from the bat of Erin Burns started to turn things around for Phoenix. However, wickets continued to tumble and too often; Phoenix were looking to rebuild. There was plenty of bustle between Issy Wong and Gwen Davies, but it was always looking like Birmingham Phoenix would not rise from the wreckage. They managed to post 129 for nine from their 100 balls.
Tash Farrant finished with three for 23, and along with van Niekerk – with two for 16 – they were the pick of the bowlers for Oval Invincibles.
Much would rely on the Invincibles top order without Marizanne Kapp. The line-up looked a batter short with Tash Farrant due to come in at six. However, there were no such worries, as Georgia Adams and van Niekerk added 90 for the first wicket.
That isn’t to say that both batters didn’t offer any chances, and Phoenix will be disappointed that they spilt several opportunities. Katie Mack dropped Adams on 12. Although it was a difficult catch, Mack would have expected to hold onto it.
While Kirstie Gordon took the only two wickets to fall, she also dropped two catches. The first was on the boundary when van Niekerk was on 40; the second was an Alice Capsey first ball drive straight back at the bowler.
In general, the Phoenix ground fielding was of the highest order and, had they scored 30 more runs, it could have been a closer contest. It was van Niekerk’s innings of 67 that made the difference, however, although Tash Farrant was chosen as the hero of the match.
It looks difficult for Phoenix to qualify, but stranger things have happened. The Oval Invincibles will have been happy with the result, but they know there is much work to do, and they will be hoping to be at full strength to do so as well.