Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Logo Wed 8 May, 10:30

Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester

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Central Sparks

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Report: Thunder v Sparks, RHF Trophy

A brilliant century from Central Sparks skipper Eve Jones proved a match-winning one as she carried her bat in a remarkable last-gasp victory against Lancashire Thunder at Emirates Old Trafford in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

Jones’ unbeaten 136 – the highest score by a woman at the ground – steered her side to a thrilling three wicket win that had still looked beyond Sparks as late as the last over off which they required 11 runs to triumph.

Earlier Emma Lamb and fellow opener, Seren Smale, shared an opening partnership of 140 – Thunder’s first ever century stand for the first wicket in the competition – as Lamb scored 107 and  the hosts compiled a formidable score of 284 for seven.

But the Sparks skipper was the hero of the hour, aided by a crucial knock of 40 from Australian batter Courtney Webb, as she hit the winning runs in the final over to seal a stunning three wicket win.

With Lamb and Smale looking to build on their opening partnership of 89 in the previous win against The Blaze, the pair set about Sparks’ seamers with both skill and confidence.

The 100 run partnership came off just 125 balls with Lamb brining up her own half-century off 51 balls while Smale’s second consecutive 50 was made off 78.

In took until the 30th over for Sparks to make the breakthrough when Smale was bowled by Hannah Baker for 67 bringing Australian batter Katie Mack to the middle.

Mack has made a good impression at Emirates Old Trafford so far and she and Lamb set about upping the run rate with some frantic running between the wickets as Sparks’ bowlers began to toil in the sun.

77 frenetic runs were put on for the second wicket before Lamb eventually fell for 107 off 104 balls after she was well caught at deep midwicket by a tumbling Bethan Ellis off Emily Arlott.

Quick runs became the order of the day and after Mack was well caught at mid on by Ria Fackrell to give Baker her second wicket, Fi Morris (29 off 19 balls) and Naomi Dattani (17 off 13) both helped push the score along before the close.

Undaunted by the sizeable target, Jones shrugged off the early loss of opening partner, Charis Pavely, bowled by a beauty from Kate Cross for 10, scoring at will on both sides of the ground and down the wicket.

Jones lost another partner when Abigail Freeborn hit a full toss to a diving Dattani at mid on for 13 to leave the score 63-2, but the skipper finally found a foil in Chloe Brewer as the third wicket pair put on 81 to bring Sparks right into the game before Brewer was caught in the deep by Smale off Tara Norris for 26.

If that made the hosts favourites once again, Webb had other ideas, as the Australian joined Jones at the crease and produced a sparkling knock off 44, containing three fours and one six.

The next wicket felt crucial and when the impressive Hannah Jones produced a great ball to bowl the advancing Webb, Jones was left with the tough task of finding boundaries and dealing with an increasingly rising run rate.

Somehow she did it, assisted by a crucial cameo from Emily Arlott (15), Sparks went into the last over bowled by Cross with Jones and Bethan Ellis still requiring double figures to snatch an unlikely victory.

Two boundaries off the first two balls from Ellis eased the nerves and fittingly it was left to Jones to strike the winning runs through point to secure a memorable win.

Eve Jones, Central Sparks Captain, said: “That was a really important win – we have had a couple of losses and in the last game we fell short by one run so to get a win on the board means we’re in the mix again.

“I got 65 in the last game but got in and got out and was really disappointed so I wanted to put that right today and I knew if I could stay there as long as possible and build partnerships we would get somewhere close so I’m really pleased. 

“It was really satisfying – I have some good mates up here and still speal to a lot of them and to do it off Crossy (Kate Cross) at the end was really sweet.

“It’s a win that will give us a lot of confidence and I think we can take a lot of positives – they were a good bowling attack who kept asking questions and made it difficult for us. To chase that total down we can take a lot from it.” 

Over 13,000 sold for Women’s IT20 vs Pakistan

Pakistan Women will be in Birmingham on Saturday 11 May 2024 and over 13,000 tickets have already been sold.

With the Men’s IT20 already sold out, this is your last chance to see Pakistan at Edgbaston next summer and tickets are available from only £17, with under 16s £5.

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