The Blaze continued their winning start to the season as they beat Southern Vipers by five wickets with two balls to spare at Derby. An unbeaten 49 from Tammy Beaumont propelled the home to a victory over defending champions after the bowlers restricted the Vipers to just 118.
The women’s regional competitions are still in their early years of development, and while Southern Vipers have been among the early pacesetters, they will have one eye on the newest team on the block. The Blaze set about consigning the difficult Lightning years to the past. However, there is optimism about what can be achieved in their first season.
Having gone unbeaten in both the start of their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and Charlotte Edwards Cup campaigns, Vipers would be a real test; unbeaten in their first two Charlotte Edwards Cup games, the South Coast side have had a swagger about them since the days of the Kia Super League and Derby, in particular, a happy hunting ground in their three games at the venue with three crushing victories across all competitions.
They were confident of carrying a similar performance again today. When Danni Wyatt (23) and Maia Bouchier (16) added 44 for the first wicket, it looked like another vast Vipers total would propel them to a third win of their T20 summer.
Two well-held catches from Kathryn Bryce off her own bowling dismissed Bouchier and Tammy Beaumont at cover to give Kirstie Gordon her only wicket.
Georgia Adams, whose dad Chris used to score runs for fun on this ground top, scored for Vipers with 31 as the innings faltered, and Vipers were eventually bowled out for 118 in 19.3 overs. Six of the Vipers’ batters were bowled on a pitch that always looked challenging to bat on.
This wasn’t a great omen for The Blaze, who has made some moderate chases seem tricky. The likes of Marie Kelly and Kathryn Bryce struggle to find the form that both are capable of.
At the halfway mark of The Blaze innings, they were 46 for three, needing a 73 to win. The Vipers were starting to strangle their opponents. T20, however, is a format where it can all change in the course of an over, and, unfortunately, for Alice Monaghan, she only over was dispatched for 25. Two no-balls allow you to go big and aerial. Beaumont nearly doubled her score in the over, and the run rate required fell from eight an over to 5.87.
Sarah Bryce fell two overs later to the always economical Linsey Smith for 17. It won’t be remembered as an innings of any significance, but it might be the change of form for Sarah Bryce that will help ease those middle-order jitters.
Beaumont recognised Bryce’s contributions after the game, saying, “Sarah Bryce turned that game around for us, she was slow to start, but then she hit a couple of boundaries and took the pressure off me, and I think that is where we won the game.”
When Sarah Bryce and then de Klerk departed with 20 runs from 18 balls, there might have been some nerves, but Beaumont had judged things well to see her side home finishing unbeaten on 49 from 40 balls and supported well by Sophie Munro, who chipped in with 12 from 11 balls.
With finals day on the 10th of June, both teams hope their form continues to see them both at Worcester.