Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Match Report – The Blaze v Thunder

Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Match Report – The Blaze v Thunder

A decent bank holiday crowd was treated to a closer game than they could ever have expected at the halfway stage, with Thunder prevailing by one wicket in a match that could have gone either way right up to the end. The East Midlands team and the visitors Thunder were fighting hard to find some form. With a win a piece so far this season, something would have to give as the armours of artisan food wafted across the outfield from the nearby food festival. 

With Sarah Glenn named along with the returning Tammy Beaumont for The Blaze and Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone named in the Thunder team, everything was set up for a thrilling contest. 

Thunder were persistent with the ball and took wickets at regular intervals that stopped The Blaze from getting too far in front. After missing the start of the season due to her wedding and honeymoon, Beaumont was in good touch, dispatching England teammate Cross for four from the game’s first ball. It looked like it might just be the sort of day where Beaumont scored big when Naomi Dattani dropped Beaumont on 24 off the bowling of Phoebe Graham, only for Mahika Gaur to dismiss her in the following over for 25. The Blaze needed their star player to go on and score big as Nadine de Klerk (3), and Teresa Graves (8) also fell to Gaur in her spell of seven overs, which picked up the first three wickets for 33 runs. 

Marie Kelly started to find some touch with four fours in a cameo of 23 before Hannah Jones and Ecclestone, the two left-arm spinners, started bowling in tandem. They strangled the Blaze innings, with Kelly and Glenn dismissed within four balls of each other and Thunder were very much the team on top as they had their opponents 74 for five. 

The Blaze have had to find runs in different places this season, and you would have been hard-pushed to have predicted Kirstie Gordon would be the Blaze’s topscorer after five games. 41 not out against the Stars saved her side at Leicester any severe embarrassment, and 43 today removed any doubts about her batting credentials. It can’t be too long until she adds a first fifty since her 60 not out in 2015 against Staffordshire for Scotland.  A patient eighth-wicket partnership of 35 with Sophie Munro (19) and 29 for the ninth wicket with Lucy Higham (11) meant that The Blaze scraped 174 before they were bowled out. It was below par, but it was a score they felt they could defend if they started well with the ball.

Thunder, however, have two batters in Emma Lamb and Seren Smale that can take a game from anyone, and they did just that with an opening stand of 89 from 92 balls before Lamb faced the chop, caught at mid-wicket by Graves for 44. While Lamb is one of the senior players in the Thunder squad and has been on the fringes of the England team, Smale is one of the new bread of fearless young professionals who have embraced the regional set-up and had a staring role in the England Under-19s.  A steady stream of wickets started to fall at the other end as Katie Mack (1) was bowled by Glenn and then Lucy Higham had Ellie Threlkeld (2) and Fi Morris to a spectacular juggling catch from Graves. Smale needed to continue to score runs freely to make sure there was no drama chasing a modest total. When Smale eventually went, bowled by Gordon for 58, it felt like The Blaze spinners were turning the game back in the home side’s favour. 46 runs were still needed with over 100 balls remaining and with the experienced Cross and Ecclestone at the crease, surely Thunder couldn’t throw away a winning position. 

Step-up captain fantastic Gordon, who finished with figures of three for 25. She bowled Ecclestone for 10 and next ball trapped Gaur for a first-ball duck. The Blaze spinners were starting to run out of overs, and Cross and Graham knew that if they could hold out until The Blaze had to reintroduce the pace bowlers, they would be okay. Or so you would have thought.

Sophie Munro returned to the attack and splayed the dangerous Cross’s stumps. With 14 runs to win, Jones, the number eleven, strode out to bat. With time to play themselves in, the last pair were watchful, rotating the strike. Graham dug out one quality yorker from Munro before Jones whacked the winnings runs with a four through mid-wicket. 


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