A career-best 162 from Lightning captain Kathryn Bryce gave her side an impressive victory against Central Sparks, who last week qualified for the knockout stages of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. Lightning would eventually win by 24 runs to end their season on a high.
Sparks, who started the day, still had an outside chance of qualifying for next weekend’s final at Northampton; a win would, in all likelihood, have secured second place.
Lightning were playing their first game at their Loughborough base in front of their supporters for the first time since the Kia Super League was disbanded.
Much of Lightning’s 320 for six was down to a stand of 207 between sisters Kathryn and Sarah Bryce.
Issy Wong had made the early breakthrough getting the edge of Bethan Ellis’ bat, and the opener had to depart for four as Chloe Hill took a brilliant catch behind the stumps.
Both Bryces, who were on international duty in Spain only a fortnight ago, brought some form back with them as well as some sunshine. Kathryn dominated the bowling to start with, and several crisp shots began to flow from their bats; when Kathryn started to score at a slower rate, Sarah took on the burden of run-scoring.
For the side that has looked short of runs this season, it was the perfect response in front of a home crowd looking for one last moment before the summer fades to a distant memory.
There were still 11.2 overs to go when Issy Wong caught Sarah Bryce (90) to give Georgia Davis her only wicket of the day.
It induced a flurry of wickets as Lightning looked to push the score over 300. However, Wong capitalised on this, bowling Bethan Harmer for two and having Ella Claridge caught behind by Hill for a duck.
That brought Sonia Odedra to the crease, and with Kathryn Bryce, the pair blitzed their way to a sixth-wicket partnership of 73 from the final 30 balls of the innings. Odedra contributed with a useful 19 from 16 balls.
Central Sparks started with a century partnership of their own, Marie Kelly and Eve Jones have been the in form batters this summer, and they were proving why their classy batting is so valuable to Sparks.
The openers added 119 before Kelly (62) was stumped by Abbey Freeborn, to give Yvonne Graves the breakthrough.
Jones was anchoring the batting with an 87 ball 60 before feathering behind a Kirstie Gordon delivery, and Freeborn pouched the catch.
Davina Perrin, playing in only her third List A game again, looked assured before being run out for 28.
With a 30 ball 41, Gwen Davies gave Sparks hope of keeping up with the rate, but wickets fell at such regular intervals that, by the time Sparks entered the final ten overs, the run rate was over 8.6. Lighting were on top.
A valiant 34 from Hill ensured that the margin of victory wasn’t just 24 runs short.
Sparks will go again later in the week, knowing that at times during this game, they looked like a side that can put together a good performance. But sometimes that isn’t enough in a derby game.
Lightning skipper Kathryn Bryce said:
“I’m delighted to put in a performance, especially first innings to really set up the game. It was a pretty good wicket and I felt really good from early on.
“Sarah and I have made runs together before at different levels but this is the first time we’ve put together a really big partnership at this level. It is easy to bat with Sarah because we understand each other’s games pretty well.
“Obviously there was not a lot to play for at the end of the season but it is great to finish on a winning note after a bit of a mixed season. It gives us more motivation going into the winter and shows us what we can actually do.”