Match Report – Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – Central Sparks v The...

Match Report – Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – Central Sparks v The Blaze

Central Sparks finally broke their Midlands derby hoodoo against The Blaze at Edgbaston. On a tricky pitch, the hosts won the toss and chose to bat and it took the batters a lot of fortitude to feel comfortable on a dry-looking surface. Abbey Freeborn (53), with the Sparks’ first fifty of the season, helped her side to 213 for 9 and it proved to be a defendable total against a Blaze side that was missing players due to injury. They would have struggled without their England players, but the Sparks eventually ran out winners by 78 runs.

There were 42 dot balls in the Central Sparks powerplay and after ten overs they were 26 for one. It felt rapid compared to the Blaze as they were 14 for three after their first ten overs, Sophie Munro having been harshly adjudged lbw from the final ball of the fielding restrictions.

It was slow going for Sparks, and while their top order got started, only Freeborn could pass 32. At one stage, it looked like Sparks wouldn’t post more than 180, but some lower-order resistance from Katie George(32), Issy  Wong (13) and Ria Fackrell (12) changed the momentum of the match. The Blaze had fielded well and kept the Sparks run-rate below 3.5 for the best part of the innnigs until George put some impetus into the proceedings. Georgie Boyce and Lucy Higham are nearly back to fitness and didn’t quite make it back for this game, but Nadine de Klerk had just returned from South Africa’s series with Sri Lanka to make the XI.

Kirstie Gordon marshalled her troops well, and The Blaze seemed to be up for this game. They may have started the match as underdogs, but they fielded like this game was all that mattered. Losing to local rivals, this game has begun to develop, even though Sparks had not beaten them in this competition before today, either against The Blaze or Lightning, their East Midlands predecessors. Grace Ballenger celebrated bowling the Sparks captain Eve Jones (12), much to the delight of her teammates and when Chloe Brewer (13) was Gordon’s first wicket of the season.

One area Sparks have failed to develop in their time as the West Midlands regional side is the ability to get over the line in difficult circumstances, which might have been the case today. There were dropped catches that cost them in the past, and when Eve Jones dropped Teresa Graves at slip, it might have felt that history would repeat itself. The opening spell from Emily Arlott, with two for seven from seven overs, made life difficult for her opponents, and both openers were dismissed before the powerplay.

Ella Claridge (19), who had a good day behind the stumps in the absence of Sarah Bryce, taking two stumpings, was tasked with rebuilding the innings with de Klerk (43) and while it worked for a short while Bethan Ellis eventually bowled Claridge with a decent slower ball. Much would rest on the efforts of de Klerk, who helped The Blaze out of some holes last season with the bat, but couldn’t rescue her side today. There were encouraging signs from Daisy Mullan (18) on loan from Thunder, but the bragging rights would sit with the West Midlands for once.

There is a long way to go for both teams this season, and there will be plenty to contemplate after today’s game.


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