Surrey Stars kicked off their Kia Super League title defence with a nine-run victory over Yorkshire Diamonds at Emerald Headingley.
Australia star Alyssa Healy’s blistering 31 looked to have put Yorkshire on top in their pursuit of 131, after Helen Fenby helped restrict Surrey by claiming four wickets.
But the Diamonds, who have yet to reach Finals Day in the KSL, failed to capitalise on their strong start as Laura Marsh took three wickets to lead the Stars to opening day success.
Healy, who scored 266 runs in the women’s Ashes, launched a superb attack in the powerplay, striking three boundaries in each of the third and fourth overs.
But she was removed for 31 from 17 balls by spinner Mady Villiers – who also dismissed the 29-year-old on her England debut last week – to leave Yorkshire 43 for one in the fifth over.
Experienced England spinner Marsh helped keep the Diamonds in check with two key wickets, as Hollie Armitage and India star Jemimah Rodrigues fell for 12 and four respectively.
Yorkshire reached 75 for three at the halfway mark as captain Lauren Winfield set about anchoring the innings.
Stars skipper Natalie Sciver dismissed Cordelia Griffith for five and then claimed the key scalp of Winfield for 31.
At 97 for five, Yorkshire required 34 to win from the last five overs. But Leigh Kasparek fell in the 16th as Marsh claimed three for 17 from her four overs.
All-rounder Alice Davidson-Richards offered hope for the Diamonds with a brisk 17, taking them to 19 needed from 12 balls, but her run out in the 19th over ended their chances.
Yorkshire lost three wickets in the final over to be bowled out for 121.
Surrey’s innings had followed a similar pattern. South African Lizelle Lee, who hit 104 from 58 balls in last year’s final win over Loughborough, hammered two fours in the opening over.
But Lee was the first of four wickets for 20-year-old leg-spinner Fenby, trapped lbw for nine attempting to sweep, before opening partner Bryony Smith was caught by Armitage for a breezy 20.
England pair Sarah Taylor and Sciver guided Surrey to 71 for two at the halfway mark.
Sciver struck the only six of the match as she crashed Kasparek down the ground, but the Edinburgh-born New Zealand spinner responded by forcing Sciver to miscue one straight back to her.
Taylor, who missed the T20 part of the recent women’s Ashes due to mental health problems, played well on her return to make 43.
But her departure in the 15th over, also caught and bowled by Kasparek, sparked a collapse.
The leg-spinner picked up her third when South African Dane Van Niekerk was brilliantly caught in the deep by Rodrigues, before Marizanne Kapp was the third to be caught and bowled – this time by Linsey Smith.
Fenby returned to dismiss Marsh and Gwen Davies to finish with figures of four for 20, but Surrey’s total of 130 for nine proved beyond Yorkshire.
What they said…
Yorkshire Diamonds captain Lauren Winfield
“We were pretty happy with that target at the halfway stage, and obviously we got off to a good start. But it was a bit similar to their innings in terms of stinging momentum and losing wickets consistently throughout. We just didn’t quite take it deep enough.
“We pretty much made the same mistakes they did, it just cost us nine runs too short. I could have looked to take it deeper, and go a bit harder at the end.
“If you bowled a good length with your spinners, it became quite difficult to score boundaries. It was the same in both innings, but we just got slightly less than them.
“I’m really happy for Helen (Fenby). She had a tough tournament last year. She started the comp really well last year with a wicket with her first ball, but she found it tough and was in and out of the side.
“But she’s played really well in the warm-up games. Tonight, she looks back to her best. Hopefully she can continue that.
“Surrey are a good side and we have got lots of positives to take forward. It’s important that we learn from this quickly, come out on Sunday and back what we do.”
Laura Marsh, who took three for 17 for Surrey
“It’s always important to start well, I think the girls put in a solid performance across both facets of the game. Think we were slightly below par with the bat but all the bowlers turned up and bowled brilliantly. It’s nice to get over the line in a close one.
“Probably when the ball was new and the field was up it was easier to score. It was actually quite a hard pitch to start on. When the spinners came on – Fenby bowled brilliantly for them – we felt if we could build some dots it would create pressure and we would be able to pick up a few wickets.
“Alyssa (Healy) is capable of taking the game away from you very quickly so it was great to see the back of her and that gave us a sniff and a foothold in the game.
“Great to see Mady (Villiers) get a go during the week (with England) and tonight she bowled fantastically well and really held her nerve.
“(Title chances). We have to start well, which we have, and we have a fantastic group of players who offer a lot of different skills throughout the batting line-up and from the bowlers as well. Nat (Sciver) can call upon anyone at any time, which is great for her.”