Southern Vipers Triumph over The Blaze
While a high-scoring final can lift people out of their seats as the boundaries rain down on the crowd, something must be said for a low-scoring thriller. Perennial finalists, Southern Vipers, and new kids on the block, The Blaze ensured that the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final would keep the crowd braving the early drizzle on the edge of their seats. They were nearly treated to a major drama before an unbeaten sixth wicket partnership of 94 between Freya Kemp and Emily Windsor took the game away from The Blaze and ensured the Southern Vipers etched their name of the trophy.
In their first year as the East Midlands regional side, the Blaze were taking part in their second final and again in battle with their rivals from the South Coast.
It felt like a repeat of the Charlotte Edwards Cup final was going to happen as The Blaze found batting difficult work after losing the wickets of Lizelle Lee and Marie Kelly who, trying to loft a shot over cover, only found the fielder.
The Blaze had the returning Tammy Beaumont, who has had a season to remember with runs galore, and today, they were thankful for her contribution of 76 runs. In a season where she proved her doubters wrong in the shorter form of the game, she returned to The Blaze squad with an innings of defiance.
Along with Sarah Bryce, who Beaumont played alongside in the Hundred for Welsh Fire, she started to rebuild the innings with a third-wicket stand of 39, but it felt like the Vipers were well on top, despite a partnership of 40 for the fifth wicket with the other Bryce in the side Kathryn.
Sophie Munro was the other batter who kept Beaumont company, and it was only when Beaumont started going through the gears that she lost her wicket; Munro battled valiantly to add a crucial 33 runs from 66 balls.
At one point, it looked like The Blaze wouldn’t get to 200 and give their bowlers something to bowl at. A late blast of 21 from 26 balls from skipper Kirstie Gordon, which included the only six of the innings, ensured her side reached the landmark.
Early wickets would be the key, and they came through Kathryn Bryce, who took advantage of the economy of Grace Ballinger, whose first spell of five overs went for just two runs.
A stand of 96 from Georgia Adams and Georgia Elwiss for the third wicket had put the Vipers back in pole position before Josie Groves, a product of the Northamptonshire pathway, took three wickets in eight balls that saw the end of Elwiss for 50 and Adams for 39 who she bowled through the gate before bowling England international Charlie Dean for seven.
Windsor (57*) and Kemp (32*) were the first partnership to look generally at ease throughout the game, and The Blaze was desperate for a breakthrough.
While Southern Vipers have won the double this year, they have some serious competition on their tail, and The Blaze are just one of a few that are eager to write their name in history.
Today though belongs to the South Coast side.