Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, Loughborough
While not possibly of storm proportions, there was enough rain coming from a westerly direction, suggesting the away side may have had a helping hand.
After previous underwhelming Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaigns, Lightning and Western Storm came into their first game in this year’s fifty-over competition looking for momentum before the break for the Commonwealth Games and The Hundred. Storm would eventually achieve a convincing 75-run victory on DLS, but they didn’t have it all their own way as their batters were made to work for 260 for nine.
Lighting won the toss and inserted their guests in gloomy conditions. It worked for the home side as after a steady start from Storm, Lightning started to pick up regular wickets. The bowlers were bowling through showers that bordered on just the wrong side of taking the sides off.
A third-wicket partnership between Sophie Luff and Fran Wilson, who recently added a Pointless trophy to her cabinet of silverware, added 67. However, both fell before reaching their fifties and gave Lighting a chance to bowl the away team out inside the allotted overs. But, with heavy showers forecast, they needed to take any opportunity that came their way.
Luff had a couple of lives; she looked to have been run out for 15, making her ground by millimetres and was then dropped by Kathryn Bryce at mid-off on 38 off the young leg-spinner Josie Groves.
Groves got her revenge in her next over with Sarah Bryce taking the catch down the leg side. Katie George upping the tempo scored 16 from 10 balls before an accurate shy at the stumps from the keeper Sarah Bryce put paid to that.
Piepa Cleary convinced Dani Gibson to chip a catch to backward point in the following over, and it looked as if Storm were going to set a below-par target. But, instead, Cleary would finish the pick of the bowlers with three for 45, with the other bowlers chipping in.
Where other teams of found a way to win, Lightning have struggled to kill teams off and being three wickets down in the Powerplay was never going to help.
Sarah Bryce was beaten in the air by a delivery from Lauren Filer. However, Marie Kelly (2) and Kathryn Bryce (5) found ways to get out to Dani Gibson, who was recently on duty with the England A side, and it was looking increasingly difficult for Lightning to find a way back into the game. Filer would finish with her best figures in the RHFT with three for 35. Gibson’s two for 26 was also pivotal as they allowed Storm to take control of the game.
The rain started to fall heavier than at any point during the day, with Lightning 40 for three at the end of the eleventh over. The target was reset; from 46 overs, Lightning needed to reach 250.
It gave Lighting a chance to regroup, and when the teams reappeared, Emily Windsor and Lucy Higham injected some urgency into the innings and started to claw their way back into the contest. However, DLS was not on their side after the loss of the early wickets and an approach that was somewhere between urgent and cautious was required, never a happy mixture.
Higham was caught and bowled excellently by Claire Nicholas, who watched it all the way into her hands and wasn’t just a lucky pouch to depart for 34, the highest score of the Lightning innings.
Windsor, on her Lighting debut, looked promising in a middle-order that lacked some depth and needed herself and Beth Harmer to keep going.
Western Storm under Trevor Griffin have always been a difficult team to beat, and under his leadership, they should be competitive once again. Lightning looks like they have some work to do but should be more competitive than the results this season.