A Mature innings of 43, from 15-year-old Davina Perrin, set up a Central Sparks victory over South East Stars that all but seals their progress into the next stage of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy with a top-three finish. They went on to win comfortably by 115 runs.
Sparks raced to a 71 run opening partnership by Eve Jones and Marie Kelly, who have been in good form of late. In the powerplay, the pair added 67 for 0 in the first ten overs. It appeared as if Sparks were going to capitalise and score a demanding total on a used pitch.
The South East side have star quality and could peg Sparks back. Taking clusters of wickets, Jones had gone for a 38 ball 39, but Perrin and Kelly were going along steady enough.
When Kelly was out 24, it felt like it could be a pivotal moment, and when Gwen Davies was lbw without scoring in the next over, Stars thought they were back in it.
Thea Brookes joined Perrin, and the intensity was back in the Sparks innings. The strike rotated more, and with the pressure on the fielders, the twos started to increase.
The introduction of Kalea Moore in the 35th ensured the wickets of Brookes and Ria Fackrell in the previous over continued a collapse. Chloe Hill was run out for one by a direct hit from Alylish Cranstone. Wong was the second wicket of the Moore over, and four wickets had fallen in the space of two overs.
A tenth wicket stand of 23 from Emily Arlott and Georgia Davis ensured that Sparks were bowled out for 229 with five balls of the innings still to complete.
With a superb top order for the Stars, it felt like Sparks were at least 30 runs short. Sparks would need their bowlers to start well, and to try and subdue openers of Bryony Smith and Alice Davidson-Richards, who could take the game away before Sparks knew what had hit them.
Davis, who had just scored 13, unstrapped her pads and would soon be opening the bowling with Issy Wong. Together, they did the job they were tasked with. Wong bowled eight overs on the trot, taking one for 27. But it was Davis who would excel with the ball, finishing with four for 26.
While Stars only managed 31 for two from the powerplay, the run-rate required never got much over five an over.
Like Sparks, Stars suffered a collapse that resulted from the closest of run-outs. Although Cranstone and Alice Capsey had started to get the Stars innings going with a partnership of 44, the Sparks were beginning to wonder where the next wicket was coming from.
It was an impressive piece of fielding from the substitute fielder Grace Potts, whose pick up and throw saw Cranstone a fraction short.
Capsey was trapped lbw in the following over by Ria Fackrell, and with it, any chance of a Stars victory. Emma Jones was bowled by Fackrell three balls later; Fackrell would take three wickets for 20 runs.
Eighty-seven for four turned into 98 for eight, and it was only a matter of time before Sparks would wrap up victory. Then Captain Eve Jones dismissed Moore for 11 to secure the victory by 115 runs and get the vital bonus-point win, putting them momentarily top of the table.
Sparks captain, Eve Jones, said: “That was such a great team performance so I am really proud of the girls. We wanted to try and qualify without it going down to the last game so really chuffed.
“We are just really pleased we are still in with a chance of going through to the final and to have at least secured a knockout place is really exciting.
“If we can go through as champions (top of the group) even better, but we will just see how we go next week and what the other results are.”