Here is an update on KSL games played on Tuesday 31 July.
Surrey Stars v Lancashire Thunder
Surrey Stars’ move back to the Oval and the TV cameras from Guildford was a switch from yellow to green. Somehow grass in SE11 had not lost its traditional colour to the prolonged drought. They faced Lancashire Thunder who were developing into real contenders for the 2018 title and were buoyed by the delayed arrival of Harmanpreet Kaur from India to add power to their middle order.
To start proceedings, Kate Cross bowled three dot balls to Lizelle Lee. To the fourth Lee swung a bat and got an edge. When Sarah Taylor mis-hit an off-drive to be caught behind square, Red Rose tails were up. Three wickets went down in three overs; possibly the crucial episode in the game. The home skipper, Natalie Sciver, fought back magnificently, batting right through for 95* (9×4, 2×6). Dane van Niekerk (29) helped her steer Stars to a possible match-winning total of 148-5.
The contrast in bowling strategies was fascinating. Thunder are the only side to rely on five core bowlers. They are lucky to possess four England exponents, but the captain, Danni Hazell, has to have total confidence in them and the support the fielders give them. Ironically it was Emma Lamb, the home-grown off-spinner, who took three of the five wickets that fell.
Other captains have thrown the ball to as many as eight of their colleagues. This approach can easily smack of a lottery rather than a plan. This was the case with the Stars: only two outfielders were left unused. By far the most economical bowler, Marizanne Kapp, bowled only 2 overs for 3 runs. The other seven returned the combined figures: 17.5 overs, 147 runs at an average of 8.3.
The Lancastrians’ next cunning plan was to place three left-handers at the top of the order. As so often happens, bowlers had problems controlling their lines. Nicole Bolton now played the innings her team-mates had been hoping for. She is a compact hard-hitting bat who played the decisive innings of the day (87).
When Sciver bowled her to great roars from the crowd, Thunder played their trump card: Kaur stroked each ball away for runs. Was she the only calm soul on the ground? The game situation was tight in the extreme. Bolton hadn’t been able to match Sciver’s scoring rate, and the Surrey bowlers knew the game’s destiny lay in their hands.
Lamb and Ellie Threlkeld both failed to score; 138-2 disintegrated into 139-5. Laura Marsh, entrusted with the last over, was responsible for a clear-headed run-out. But Kaur walked down the wicket to her fifth ball to send it over the sponge at mid-wicket.
Southern Vipers v Western Storm
The only two sides to win this competition met in the beautiful surrounds of Arundel Castle. Vipers‘ batting was a thoroughly disappointing effort, as if the absence of Tammy Beaumont had taken the stuffing out of them. Their motto is: ‘Beware the Vipers!’ At the moment it has been twisted inside out: Vipers, beware!
All the mainline batters returned early whence they had come, bar Sarah McGlashan, the experienced New Zealander, who top-scored with 31. Only her fellow Kiwi, Amelia Kerr, followed her into double figures (11).
Anya Shrubsole, Freya Davies, Claire Nicholas, Stefanie Taylor and Heather Knight were all allowed to bowl at a rate of 5 runs per over or less. Champions shouldn’t be bowled for totals of 90, whatever the conditions.
England’s two hopeful left-arm quicks, Tash Farrant and Katie George, went for 41 runs off the three overs they were allowed. Priest and Mandhana hit 39 off the opening 3.3 overs before Arran Brindle took the only wicket to fall.
Storm’s three leading batters, Rachel Priest (30), Smriti Mandhana (43*) and the skipper (18*) couldn’t decide which of them should register strike rates of over 200, 150 or 100. So they opted for one each.
Not even the most experienced of operators, Suzie Bates and Arran Brindle, could turn the tide. The runs were knocked off in 9½ overs.
Loughborough Lightning v Yorkshire Diamonds at Loughborough
Yorkshire Diamonds are in a sorry state, still looking for their first win after four rounds. Lucky for them that this year’s fixture-list is twice as long as before – it gives them a chance to restore their form and prove the doubters wrong.
An essential contrast between the two sides came in the early stages of their innings: Lightning’s openers, Rachael Haynes and Sophie Devine, weren’t separated till 80 runs were posted. The White Roses lost their top three batters in the first six overs. The middle order tried to correct matters, Thea Brookes once again delighting her supporters with three 6s and a 4 in a quick-fire 30. But that remained the highest score, so Lightning keep up the pressure on the leaders with a comfortable 41-run victory.
At the end of Round 4 the KSL table looks like this:
1. Western Storm 15
2. Loughborough Lightning 14
3. Lancashire Thunder 13
4. Surrey Stars 7
5. Southern Vipers 4
6. Yorkshire Diamonds 2