Report: Thunder v Sparks, Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
Thunder and Central Sparks conjured up a thrilling tie in a rain affected Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy match at Emirates Old Trafford. Chasing a Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method revised target of 224 off 45 overs, the Sparks last pair of Davina Perrin and Grace Potts scrambled seven of the eight runs required from the final over to finish on 223 for nine with captain Eve Jones top-scoring for the visitors with 69.
Thunder were rescued from a mid-innings collapse by Sophie Ecclestone who struck a career-best 74 off 65 balls that included two sixes and eight fours to post a competitive 234 all out, with Australian all-rounder Erin Burns taking four wickets on her Sparks debut.
But despite faltering over the closing overs, Central Sparks rallied to clinch a tie with a leg bye off the final ball.
Put in to bat, Thunder openers Emma Lamb and Naomi Dattani compiled a steady 42 until Sparks’ Issy Wong struck in the ninth over. The England pace bowler banged in two short deliveries to start her spell, both of which were despatched emphatically by the left-handed Dattani to square leg. The first went for four, the second – unfortunately for the batter – arrowed straight into the hands of Potts at deep backward square.
Undeterred, Lamb and Fi Morris built another good partnership, adding 63 in 11 overs, with Lamb playing shots all around the wicket in making a second consecutive half century in the competition from 65 balls. Morris played her part, swinging Wong for a massive six into the midwicket car park, in making 31 to help steer the hosts to 105 for one in the 20th over.
The double introduction of spin from Georgia Davis and new signing Burns, the veteran Australian all-rounder, transformed the innings as the Sparks fought back strongly with the Thunder middle order displaying familiar frailty.
Davis spun one past the advancing Lamb to have the Thunder opener stumped for 56 while Burns swiftly recovered from a poor first over that went for ten runs, and included a high full-pitch no ball, to have Thunder skipper Ellie Threlkeld caught at mid-on for one.
After Morris sliced a drive off Davis to Eve Jones at extra cover, Burns (four for 56) struck with deadly accuracy bowling both Deandra Dottin for eight and Kate Cross for two, either side of having Libby Heap caught at long-on for 17 as the Thunder slumped to 153 for seven.
Ecclestone and Tara Norris rallied with a 38-run alliance for the seventh wicket before the latter was lbw for eight to Emily Arlott. But Ecclestone, who had pulled Burns over midwicket for six in her final over, struck the ball impressively on her way to a 48-ball fifty. The England all-rounder hit out as she ran out of partners, pulling Grace Potts over square leg for a second six before being last out, caught on the square leg boundary going for another maximum.
Sparks lost early wickets in their reply, Chloe Brewer edging behind off the fifth ball of Cross’ opening over and Abbey Freeborn falling for 17 to an excellent catch by Morris at gully that gave left arm pace bowler Mahika Gaur a wicket on her home debut.
Rain took the players off the field with Sparks on 62 for two and, following a delay of around fifty minutes, handed a revised target of 224 from 45 overs.
Jones had steadied the Sparks innings either side of the rain delay composed 75-ball half century adding 81 for the third wicket with Burns. With the threat of further rain around, the pair used all their experience to keep the score ahead of the DLS par score despite Burns being bowled for 37 playing back to Alex Hartley.
Cross (three for 40) returned to claim two important wickets; Jones for 69 when the Sparks skipper drove to Tara Norris at mid-on and Ami Campbell for a run-a-ball 28, brilliantly caught one-handed by Gaur at backward square to leave the visitors on 173 for five and requiring 49 off 58 balls.
But the Sparks faltered for the first time as the Thunder exerted pressure with some tight bowling. Ecclestone caught Katie George off her own bowling for six before Norris took two wickets in two balls with Arlott driving to Morris at extra cover for 13 and having Wong bowled first ball.
With 18 runs required from 18 balls Ecclestone returned to trap Davis lbw for 3 but Perrin, with a valuable unbeaten 27, and Potts (7 not out) held their nerve to level matters in dramatic style.
Erin Burns, Central Sparks said: “It’s always a bit of a hollow feeling to finish the game with a tie. It was pretty edge of your seat stuff at the end.
“It had a little bit of everything in it. It kind of swayed both ways throughout the game, but we wish we were sitting in the dressing room with a ‘W’ under our belt, but it’s certainly not the worst result either. Not many of us can say we’ve tied too many 50-over matches in our career!
“It’s nice to be able to contribute to your team, take a few wickets and get a few runs. So personally it was pretty good, but you can always nit-pick and think you should have done better. Personally, I would have liked to have kicked on a bit more with the bat.
“I think our bowlers did really well in patches, and in much the same way with our partnerships. For us we need to take our batting a little bit deeper.”
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