For the last round of the group games there were some tasty line-ups, a modified version of a Roses match, Far East v Far West, East Midlands v West Midlands and a Southern derby.
Central Sparks still had an outside chance of beating Northern Diamonds to a place in the final against Southern Vipers.
England players not needed for the West Indies series were released from their Loughborough bubble, so this was a third variation on the theme of availability. Players like Bryony Smith, Alice Davidson-Richards and Lauren Bell were restored to the 50-over game, strengthening the overall standards, but still leaving room for others to make their mark. The batters in particular did just that, three scoring splendid centuries. One total topped 300, five of the rest 200.
South East Stars v Southern Vipers
This was a thoroughly entertaining game at the Oval. The Vipers finished with a sixth win out of six but had to work very hard against determined opponents. Chloe Brewer (79) led the way for Stars, but their innings fell away till Grace Gibbs boosted hopes late on with an enterprising 30. A score of 227 against the strongest batting line-up in the country looked vulnerable, and a spate of early wides opened the flood-gates. Stars did well to restrict the free-scoring Georgia Adams to 41 – one of her ‘failures’ this summer! – but Vipers have experienced operators all down the line. No-one reached fifty, but all made useful contributions, led by cricketer-turned-commentator, Emily Windsor, with a breezy 47.
Western Storm v Sunrisers
This looked in advance like a very uneven battle as East met West, and once Georgia Hennessy (105) and Alex Griffiths (80) had added 155 for the fifth wicket, you could call it a home banker. When the visitors descended to 128-6 you felt you could look up the early train departures, but Jo Gardner and Grace Scrivens had other ideas. In an audacious display of controlled hitting, they added 69 for the seventh wicket, then Scrivens went merrily on to reach 72 off 73 balls with eleven fours. At 16, she is a tall left-hander with an open stance. She has some creases to iron out in her technique, but hits the ball clean and hard off front and back foot. Capped last year by Kent, she became yet another youngster to show the worth of the tournament. Sunrisers finished the campaign pointless, but deserve huge congraturlation for getting so close to the market-leaders.
Northern Diamonds v North West Thunder
Diamonds were the first side to complete a victory, thus ensuring an appearance in the final. Once again Thunder’s batting proved fragile; a total of 143 was unlikely to present a hill to high to climb for the leading side in the north. Of Diamond’s six bowlers only two went for more than four an over, and Beth Langston had another good day with 3-18. Sterre Kalis, the 21-year-old Dutch international, led the reply with an encouraging 55*.
Lightning v Central Sparks
Lightning have had an up-and-down series but were happy to finish with a fine win over the once highly-rated Sparks. Once more they were indebted to Sarah Bryce who completed an astonishing sequence of scores with a massive 136* (14 x 4) The support she received from Teresa Graves (65*), Abbey Freeborn (40) and Bethan Ellis (25) took them way past the previous best total (289) to a whopping 303-5.
Sparks started excellently through Eve Jones, Poppy Davies and Marie Kelly, reaching 176-1, but the rest of the order fell away.
Jones went on to reach another century, so she and Bryce completed a most unusual double: two openers carried their bats and both scored tons. One for the record books.
So Southern Vipers will meet Northern Diamonds in the final at Edgbaston next Sunday (10.30)
South East Stars 227 lost to Southern Vipers 230-6 by 4 wickets
Western Storm 288-6 beat Sunrisers 241 by 47 runs
Northern Diamonds 144-4 beat North West Thunder 143 by 6 wickets
Lightning 303-5 beat Central Sparks 248 by 55 runs
Tables after the final round:
Northern Group Points
Northern Diamonds 23
Central Sparks 13
Southern Vipers 27
Western Storms 10
Sarah Bryce 136* (14 x 4)
Eve Jones 115*
Georgia Hennessy 105
Alex Griffiths 80
Chloe Brewer 79
Grace Scrivens 72
Teresa Graves 65
Sterre Kalis 55*
Lauren Bell 10-1-36-4
Beth Langston 8.5-1-18-3