Southern Vipers got back to winning ways in the Charlotte Edwards Cup at Derby, with a dramatic last-ball victory winning by seven wickets. But, in doing so, consigned Lightning to a sixth consecutive T20 defeat this season.
Two defeats in the past week had seen Southern Vipers slip from the top spot in their group, and a South East Stars victory earlier in the day against Central Sparks ensured that Vipers couldn’t finish top of the group. However, a place on finals day was still a real possibility.
Having won the toss, Lightning captain Kirstie Gordon chose to bat on a pitch with a good covering of grass. It was a tactic that had worked well on Saturday at Worcester, Sonia Odedra and Beth Harmer again looked comfortable against the new ball.
Harmer, who likes to play aggressively and with a hint of flair, was undone by a short ball from Tara Norris. Harmer had hit it well enough, only to see that Alice Monaghan was waiting at deep backward square-leg for five.
Odedra followed in the next over as Lauren Bell took two wickets in the space of four balls. Lucy Higham appeared unlucky to go for a first-ball lbw, as the ball looked to be going down the leg side.
Abbey Freeborn and Teresa Graves rebuilt the Lighting innings with a stand of 44 from 48 as Freeborn continued her excellent run of form with a mature 27 from 29 balls.
What hamstrung Lightning in their attempt to set a challenging total, as they lost wickets in clusters, was Georgia Elwiss. Lighting captain during the KSL era, she was one of the main tormentors of the Lighting. She removed Teresa Graves and Freeborn when they looked to accelerate and finished with three for 23. The other Vipers bowler to take three wickets was Tara Norris, another player who wore the African violet in the past.
Lighting lost two wickets in the last two balls to finish on 124 for nine, a score that looked 15 runs short of where they should have been.
Southern Vipers knew that just over a run a ball was required to win and, for most of their innings, they looked in control of their destiny. They were ahead at the powerplay stage, having lost the wicket of Georgia Adams, who chipped it to the sub fielder Nancy Harman to give Gordon her first wicket of the day.
What the Vipers had in their favour was wickets in hand. When the run-rate started to creep over seven an over, they still had plenty of batting to come.
While Elwiss and Paige Scholfield were batting, the only outcome was a Vipers win. Gordon, who is never one to admit she is beaten, deceived Elwiss in the flight and had her stumped for 20.
With tight fields and bowling that didn’t stray off the right line and length, Vipers suddenly needed 17 runs from the last two overs. They were still favourites, but a miserly over from Odedra from the penultimate over of the game could bring proceedings to an exciting close.
Eight runs followed, and nine were required from the final over. More importantly, Scholfield on 35 was not on strike for the first ball from Grace Ballinger over; a scampered single followed, and it was up to the experienced allrounder.
Ballinger overstepped critically, giving away the free-hit; it was suddenly down to a run a ball from the last three balls. Scholfield confidently stroked the final ball past Harman at cover to finish unbeaten on 41 and bring her side to a tighter win than they would have liked.
Vipers top-scorer Paige Scholfield said:
“We had to get there for Charlotte and we’re so excited to be going through to Finals Day. It feels amazing.
“Facing that last ball, I’ve not felt pressure like that in a very long time but I had a conversation with Emily at the other end and she just told me to play a strong shot. My strength is to hit the ball hard along the ground and so that’s what I did and wherever it went we were running.
“Northern Diamonds are a good side but we beat them in the 50-over competition and we would back ourselves to come out on top again.”