Western Storm secure big win ahead of double-header

5 Jun 2023 |

Orla Prendergast anchored Western Storm to a crucial seven-wicket win over Central Sparks at Bristol's Seat Unique Stadium to keep alive their hopes of progressing in the Charlotte Edwards Cup.

Top-scoring with 46 from 43 deliveries, the Ireland international staged a meaningful stand of 57 in 7.5 overs for the third wicket with Fran Wilson, who made 34, and then saw the job through in an unbroken partnership of 45 with skipper Sophie Luff, who contributed 20 not out as Storm chased down their target with four balls to spare.

Sparks won the toss, elected to bat and were buoyed by a superb innings of 66 from 45 balls by overseas signing Erin Burns, who dominated stands of 36 and 66 with Davina Perrin and Abbey Freeborn for the third and fourth wickets respectively.

In outstanding form, England hopeful Dani Gibson did her best to keep the visitors in check, proving both incisive with the new ball and wily at the death to return figures of 4-23 from four overs and deny the visitors the opportunity to post a truly imposing total.

With three wins from their six games so far, Storm still have an outside chance of making finals day as they prepare for Wednesday's key fixture against group leaders Blaze at Cardiff. But Sparks are now effectively out of the running after four defeats in six outings.

Without England batter Amy Jones and potentially short of top-order runs, Sparks were heavily dependent upon overseas star Burns after openers Eve Jones and Ami Campbell perished inside four overs with 16 on the board. Storm's most effective bowler this summer, Gibson accounted for both, having Jones held at mid-off in the act of driving and then dislodging Campbell's off stump with a ball that nipped back.

Demonstrating superb timing and clean hitting from the outset, Burns immediately set about redressing the balance, driving Smale through the covers to collect her first four and help Sparks reach 30-2 at the end of the six-over powerplay. Teenager Perrin played her part at the other end, displaying confidence beyond her years in carrying the fight to the bowlers. 

Prepared to live dangerously, the 16-year-old was dropped on 10 off the bowling of Prendergast, Smale the offender at mid-off. But she made good her escape to register 22 from 23 balls in a valuable stand of 36 in 31 balls with Burns for the third wicket before chipping Alex Griffiths to mid-off in the ninth.

Having reached a modest 57-3 at the end of 10 overs, Sparks still had a good deal to do in order to post a challenging total. Now partnered by Freeborn, who adopted a supporting role, Burns took it upon herself to redress the balance, moving up through the gears and dominating a key fourth-wicket stand of 66 in 8.5 overs. 

Targeting Chloe Skelton's off spin, the Australian stepped down the crease to plunder three boundaries in a twelfth over that yielded 14 runs, in the process surpassing her previous highest T0 score of the season, 41 not out made against Thunder at Worcester last month.

She offered just one chance, dropped on 49 by Griffiths at mid-wicket off the bowling of Gibson in the 17th over, scampering two runs to bring up her 50 from 36 balls and raise a half century stand with Freeborn. Having served as the perfect foil in an innings of 21 from 22 balls, Freeborn was caught at backward point by Luff, snared by slow left armer Smale, who finished with 1-24 from four overs. Looking to accelerate in the final over, Burns was bowled by Gibson, who then demonstrated her expertise at the death by removing Katie George two balls later.

Experienced off spinner Claire Nicholas also played her part in restricting the visitors, sending down four overs for just 19 runs, while Griffiths weighed in with 1-15 from two overs.

Gibson proved forthright at the top of the order, striking a quartet of fours in an innings of 18 that occupied just 14 deliveries as Storm made a quick start to their chase. Although she was held at extra cover off the bowling of former team-mate George and fellow opener Nat Wraith hit Burns to mid-wicket and departed for six, the home side still managed to raise 50-2 from the six-over powerplay, at which point they were required to score at just over a run a ball.

Confronted by a triumvirate of spinners in the form of Burns, Hannah Baker and Georgia Baker, Wilson and Prendergast eschewed unnecessary risk, proved adept at finding the gaps, ran hard between the wickets and punished the bad ball when it came along to consolidate Storm's good start. Seizing the initiative and proving the more fluent of the two, former England batter Wilson scored freely either side of the wicket as the home side advanced their score to 77-2 at the halfway stage of the innings.

Having already contributed half centuries in successful run chases against Thunder and Sunrisers this season, Wilson again used her considerable experience to render a potentially tricky situation relatively straightforward, the 31-year-old raising 34 from 28 balls, with 5 fours, when she was lured forward by Baker and stumped in the 13th over with the score on 92.

Storm required a further 44 from 45 balls when Prendergast was joined by Luff, and the fourth wicket pair always had something in hand as they closed in on their target without any undue alarms. Both scored at a run-a-ball, Luff accruing two boundaries in a breezy innings that spanned 21 balls, and Prendergast hitting the winning runs with her fifth four.