Charlotte Edwards and her Southern Vipers are one win away from being crowned the first champions of the Kia Super League.
The Vipers beat Loughborough Lightning by 59 runs in front of another four-figure crowd at the Ageas Bowl today to secure top spot in the final table, fired by a fine all-round performance by New Zealand captain Suzie Bates.
That means they go straight through to the title-deciding match at Finals Day in Chelmsford next Sunday (August 21).
But Lightning remain in contention, as after finishing third in the table, they play in the first match of Finals Day, against second-placed Western Storm – with the winners going through to face the Vipers in the final.
The Storm – a joint venture between Gloucestershire, Somerset and the University of Exeter – will head east in confident mood, after crushing Yorkshire Diamonds by six wickets in their last qualifying match at Headingley today, with five wickets for Anya Shrubsole before overseas stars Rachel Priest and Stafanie Taylor shared a century opening partnership.
Heather Knight, the Storm and England captain, said: ” Our batsmen are firing on all cylinders and our bowling has improved as the competition has gone on. Our younger players have done very well as have our overseas players and we are all very excited to be in the first Kia Super League Finals Day.”
Georgia Elwiss, the Lightning captain, said: “It was a disappointing performance from us in general today but we have to dust ourselves down and pick ourselves up for Finals Day. We would have taken Finals Day at the start of the competition and we have a big week to prepare for it.
“Playing a semi final means we get a chance of looking at the pitch and the conditions and to get used to the wicket. Now we are in the semi final we have to look at it positively.”
Bates, who was named the leading woman cricketer in the world by Wisden earlier this year, said: “It is nice going into the Finals weekend knowing we only have one game. If you go straight through to the final like we have you will be considered the favourite but Twenty20 cricket can take games away from you very quickly.”
Kia Super League Finals Day, Sunday August 21, Chelmsford.
Semi Final (11am): Western Storm (2nd) v Loughborough Lightning (3rd)
Final (3pm): Southern Vipers (1st) v Semi Final winners
Report courtesy of the ECB