Central Sparks got back to winning ways at Northampton as they beat Sunrisers by three runs to cement their place at the top of group B and a likely spot at Finals day in the Charlotte Edwards Cup. The final will be played on the same ground, so it was an excellent opportunity for the West Midlands based club to get familiar with the surroundings, and it couldn’t have gone better for them. It was a game that Sparks should have won by a more significant margin, but a superb stand between Jo Gardner and Amara Carr gave the home side some hope.
Eve Jones, the Sparks captain, won the toss and chose to bat. It was a dream Powerplay from the skipper, who, along with Issy Wong, set a platform with 52 runs from the first six overs of the innings.
Sunrisers rotated their bowling in vain, hoping to find the breakthrough, the first opportunity coming with Jones on 47. She drilled an Abtaha Maqsood delivery straight back at the bowler, who did well to get low but ultimately spilt it. The next ball, Eve Jones didn’t miss out, bringing up her first half-century for Sparks this season.
It was a well-judged innings, lifting the ball over the outfield, and even when Naomi Dattani was moved to long-on, Jones took on the challenge, and Dattani could only admire the shot as it sailed over her head.
Wong was the first to go with the score on 92. Maqsood, finishing her first over of the day, tempted Wong to deposit out of the ground, only for it to find the grateful hands of Mady Villiers. Wong was gone for 35. Amy Jones didn’t last long before edging to the keeper Amara Carr to help Grace Scrivens to respectable figures of one for 12 from her three overs.
Sunrisers continued to battle their way back into the game with wickets. At the end of the Sparks innings, Dattani was on a hat-trick in the final over as Sparks finished on 146 for five.
Wong and Liz Russell took control in the Powerplay. Villiers was caught behind from the fourth ball. However, Grace Scrivens kept her cool, clubbing 27 from 20 balls and Dattani supported from the other end.
When Scrivens fell, it sparked a collapse. Kelly Castle was out for a five-ball duck, Mia Rogers was run out, and it felt all over.
Sunrisers are a fast improving side, and they have stayed in games they had no right to be in with a chance of winning before valiantly losing, and they repeated that pattern in this game.
Carr and Gardner shared a sixth wicket stand of 81 from 32 balls, and it was all to play for in the final over. Fourteen runs were needed, and with the pressure back on the bowling side, anything was possible before Russell dismissed Gardner for 41, Davies with the critical catch.
Gayatri Gole hit the next ball for four, but ultimately, there was too much to do for Sunrisers, and Sparks will be back here in ten days with eyes on glory.