Charlotte Edwards Cup
Charlotte Edwards Cup Logo Wed 22 May, 10:30

The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton

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Western Storm

Western Storm

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Western Storm

Central Sparks

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Report: Western Storm v Sparks, Charlotte Edwards Cup

Abbey Freeborn scored a swashbuckling half century to propel Central Sparks to a 21-run Charlotte Edwards Cup victory over Western Storm beneath the floodlights at the Cooper Associates Ground in Taunton.

The 27-year-old opener top-scored with a superb 40-ball 68 and dominated stands of 63 and 57 with Davina Perrin and Eve Jones for the second and third wickets respectively as Sparks posted 168-6 after being put in on a sound track.

Cast in supporting roles, Perrin contributed a useful 26 and Jones made 38, while Chloe Skelton took 2-31 and Amanda-Jade Wellington, the pick of the Storm bowlers, returned figures of 1-22 from four overs.

Eager to prove a point after losing her place in the England squad, Dani Gibson threatened to make a game of it when scoring a quick-fire 40, but former Storm all-rounder Katie George removed her and finished with impressive figures of 4-36 as Sparks took wickets at regular intervals to turn the screw. Grace Potts weighed in with 3-35 as Storm were dismissed for 147 in 18.3 overs.

Victory means Sparks, who take on Northern Diamonds at Headingley on Monday, have now won their opening two matches and top the table, while Storm head to Beckenham and a showdown with South East Stars still seeking their first win.

Unperturbed by the loss of Ami Campbell in the first over, Freeborn and the in-form Perrin took full advantage of the fielding restrictions to advance the score to 53-1 at the end of the six-over powerplay as Sparks got off to an excellent start with the bat. Especially severe on anything short or wide, the big-hitting Freeborn cut a half volley from Gibson to the boundary before harvesting back-to-back fours off Sophia Smale’s slow left arm as the visitors wrestled back the initiative.

Buoyed by her match-winning 79 not out against Sunrisers three days earlier, Perrin attempted to match Freeborn blow-for-blow, twice driving Alex Griffiths to the boundary and straight-hitting Smale for another eye-catching boundary as the second wicket pair raised a 50 partnership from 31 balls. The stand was worth 63 when off spinner Skelton engineered a breakthrough in the eighth over, inducing Perrin to sky a catch to cover and depart for a 20-ball 26 that included a quartet of fours.

With Wellington plying her leg breaks at the other end, Storm took the pace off in a bid to stem the flow of runs during the middle overs, but Sparks were still handily-placed on 77-2 at the halfway point. Freeborn went to 50 from 34 balls, reaching that landmark with her seventh four, an aerial off-drive at the expense of Smale as the total moved into three figures in the 13th. She celebrated with another four, this time behind square, before hoisting Smale high over deep mid-wicket for the first six of the match.

Storm supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief when Freeborn drove expansively at a ball from Skelton and was held by Sophie Luff at cover with the score on 124 in the 14th. Having proved a willing accomplice in a high-octane alliance of 57 in 6.1 overs, Jones now picked up the cudgels, smiting Skelton for an imposing maximum over deep square and dominating a partnership of 26 in 14 balls for the fourth wicket with Courtney Webb. 

She had smashed 38 from 26 deliveries and accrued 5 fours and a six when she was run out by Wellington’s throw from the deep to afford Storm breathing space. The home side then made good their breakthrough, Griffiths and Wellington accounting for Katie George and Emily Arlott in quick succession as Sparks ran out of steam at the death. But they already had more than enough.

In urgent need of a good start, Storm kept pace with the required rate thanks to an expansive partnership of 39 for the second wicket between Gibson and Niamh Holland, these two mustering a combined tally of eight boundaries during a powerplay which yielded 58 runs for the loss of Emma Corney. 

Holland was bowled by former Storm all-rounder George for 15, but Gibson still found the boundary with sufficient regularity to keep the home side on track, the England all-rounder harvesting 7 fours in a 21-ball innings of 40.

But she was unable to go on and post the meaningful score that the situation required, pursuing a leg-side delivery from George and offering a catch behind, while Nat Wraith went in the next over, directing a leading edge to short mid-wicket as Hannah Baker reduced Storm to 67-4 in the eighth. Generating express pace, George then struck a crucial blow, bowling Luff without scoring and further reducing the home to 79-5. 

With Fran Wilson unable to bat owing to a concussion injury, Smale joined Griffiths in the middle with 89 needed from 67 balls. It proved too big an ask, Potts accounting for both in the space of two overs from the River End to render Wellington’s spirited knock of 31 not out inconsequential.

Central Sparks bowler Katie George said: “I’m absolutely buzzing. We’ve won back-to-back games and there is still room for improvement. It’s a great start and we will keep striving for perfection, because you cannot afford to take your foot off the gas in this competition.

“Winning here feels so good, but we know we have to keep doing the things we are doing well and improve in some other areas. I’m so glad Abbey Freeborn is on our side, because I wouldn’t want to bowl against her! The way she and the other batters set us up in that powerplay gave us such a good platform.

“Being attacking in that first phase set us up and we should really have gone on to score 180. Hannah Baker then bowled beautifully, tying things down in the middle overs. As for me, I’m just trying to be as attacking as possible and take as many wickets as I can. This can be a difficult place for bowlers, because there is very little margin for error, but I was clear about my plans and pleased to get among the wickets.”

Four Teams. Two Matches. Blast Off is back!

Vitality Blast Off is back and the Bears will launch their home T20 campaign with a huge men’s double-header featuring two big Midlands rivalry games.

Taking place on Saturday 1 June, Derbyshire Falcons host Leicestershire Foxes (2.30pm) before the Bears take on Notts Outlaws (6.30pm). Buy tickets in advance and save.

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