Source: Don Miles for the ECB

So near and yet so far for Kent Women

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The Women’s cricket season reached an early climax on July 1 as the last round of the Vitality T20 was played out in broiling heat. Kent needed a whole set of results to go their way to finish top of Division One. It didn’t help their cause that one of their rivals for the big prize, Middlesex, were to be their final opponents.

The outfield at Beckenham was beginning the Saharan yellow of the drought year 1976. Kent were glad to welcome back Laura Marsh and Tash Farrant from their labours with England, but would have preferred them to be still sparring in the Tri-Nations series that concluded the same day. Both played leading roles in seeing off the Birmingham Bears – known to all the local populace who live outside Birmingham as Warwickshire – with Farrant returning 2-12 at the start, and Marsh top-scoring with 41.

Gwenan Davies, opening for the Bears, outdid Marsh in scoring 42, but the rest of the batting failed to push the total beyond 91-7.

Kent’s young opening pair, Phoebe Franklin and Chelsey Rowson, set the tone for a confident reply, putting on 31 together. The Bears’ bowling lacked the teeth to force the issue, and there was some sloppy fielding in the heat. Kent cantered home to win by 7 wickets.

Now they could seek shade wherever it was to be found, catch up with scores on other grounds and assess Middlesex’s strengths and weaknesses against the Midlanders.

Given a forthright start by Naomi Dattani (40 off 28 balls), Middlesex posted 150, the highest total of the day, and never looked back. The Bears laboured hard to 128-6, but couldn’t match their opponents’ scoring rate.

By now Kent already knew their fate: they couldn’t overtake the two leading teams to win Division One. The last game didn’t begin till 5.10 in the evening; the heat had relented by a degree or two. Natasha Miles and Dattani opened confidently for Middlesex as Kent’s bowling failed to find accuracy and penetration. Farrant went for 33 off her 4 overs. After this opening partnership of 73, Middlesex were pegged back sufficiently to total only 128-5.

At the top of the Kent order, Marsh took the place of Rowson who had suffered the effects of the heat. She and Alice Davidson-Richards took the score beyond 50, but neither they nor the later batters could accelerate the rate to worry the accurate Middlesex bowlers. Bhavika Gajipra, the last to be called upon, took the honours with an analysis of 4-0-13-2.

So the T20 season concluded with Middlesex sitting top of the Division One pile, with Sussex second and Kent in bronze medal position. Worcester and Yorkshire face relegation.

Lead photo shows Laura Marsh playing for England v New Zealand