Yorkshire Diamonds overseas star Jemimah Rodriguez hit a brilliant half century as Kia Super League finalists Western Storm finally surrendered their unbeaten record, losing by five runs in a rain-affected contest at the Cooper Associates Ground.
Rodriguez struck 60 from 27 balls, accrued 10 fours and 2 sixes and dominated a match-winning third-wicket stand of 79 in 45 balls with Hollie Armitage as Diamonds posted 104-4 in 10 overs after being put into bat.
Victorious in their opening nine games and desperate to retain their 100 per cent record, Storm refused to go down without a fight. Fran Wilson and Sophie Luff took the chase down to the final ball in a spirited unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 76, only for experienced seamer Beth Langston to hold her nerve in a thrilling finale.
Internationals Lauren Winfield and Alyssa Healy afforded Diamonds’ innings crucial early momentum in a first over which yielded 19 runs, off spinner Claire Nicholas uncharacteristically conceding four boundaries.
But England seamer Freya Davies effected a turnaround in fortunes, removing both in the space of five balls in the second over to reduce Diamonds to 21-2. England’s Winfield skied a top-edged pull to wicketkeeper Rachel Priest, who then demonstrated safe hands when Australia’s Healy was hurried in the act of driving.
New batsmen Rodriguez and Armitage sought to redress the balance, staging a revitalising partnership for the third wicket. They particularly targeted off spinners Heather Knight, Deepti Sharma and Nicholas, advancing the total to a handy 55-2 at halfway.
Indian teen star Rodriguez timed the ball sweetly, smiting 2 sixes and 8 fours in raising a 21-ball 50, bringing more or less constant pressure to bear on the Storm bowlers.
Rodriguez was threatening to carry Diamonds to a truly imposing total when she finally fluffed her lines in the face of nagging line and length from Davies, miss-timing a drive and holing out to mid-off in the final over.
The only Storm bowler to escape punishment, Davies finished with admirable figures of 3-7 off two overs, frustrating Yorkshire’s attempts to accelerate at the death.
Prepared to play second fiddle, Armitage proved the perfect foil to the more forthright Rodriguez, contributing 19 from 21 deliveries before being run out off the final ball.
Storm’s reply was halted in its tracks as key batters Priest, Smriti Mandhana and Knight all departed inside five overs, Diamonds reducing the hosts to 23-3.
Priest never looked comfortable under the floodlights, hitting Linsey Smith to deep mid-wicket for seven to spark the slide. Mandhana chipped Leigh Kasperek to cover in the next over and Knight followed her back to the pavilion soon afterwards, dismissed in near-identical fashion to afford Diamonds all the encouragement they needed.
Charged with the unenviable task of rebuilding an innings that had stalled in it’s infancy, Wilson and Luff made a decent fist of chasing. Throwing caution to the wind, the fourth wicket pair combined feverish running between the wickets and clean hitting to sow seeds of doubt in Yorkshire minds.
Needing 14 runs off the final over, Storm hopes were revived when Langston no-balled twice. But the home side were unable to take advantage of the subsequent free hits and came up agonislingly short at the death.
Wilson hit an unbeaten 45 from 20 balls, while Somerset-born Luff finished on 31 not out from 18 deliveries.
What they said
Yorkshire Diamonds captain Lauren Winfield said…
“We’re disappointed not to have done better and to have missed out on making Finals Day, but we have finished strongly and this win is a nice consolation. We’ve been on the end of some heavy defeats to Storm in the past, so it’s doubly pleasing to come out on top this time.
“What can I say about Jemimah Rodriguez? She plays completely without fear and strikes the ball so naturally. It was a fantastic innings on a really good batting track and we knew that 104 was a decent total and would take some getting.
“Storm’s top order is really dangerous and probably the best in the competition, so we knew we had to make early in-roads. To have them three down for 23 set things up for us. Fran Wilson and Sophie Luff played really well, but we kept to our plans and Beth Langstone held her nerve and bowled brilliantly at the death.”
Storm head coach Trevor Griffin said…
“We set our sights on winning ten out of ten, but it was not to be. We may have came up short in a really close finish, but we showed our character and spirit to take it down to the final ball. It’s a shame that Fran (Wilson) and Sohpie (Luff) couldn’t quite get us over the line in what was a thrilling match. We’ve been involved in some close finishes this season and we’re disappointed not to have come out on top this time.
“We won’t dwell on this game for long. We’re in the final and our focus has to be on winning the title on Sunday. We need one more big effort from everyone and, hopefully we will be celebrating at the end of Finals Day.
“I’d like to thank our wonderful supporters. We’ve made a home at Taunton for the last four years and they have backed us in each and every game and made playing here feel very special. It would be fitting were we to lift the trophy for them at Hove.”