The Southern Vipers will play the Northern Diamonds in the final of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy at Lord’s on Sunday (25 September) for the third season running.
The Vipers booked their place in the final when they routed the South East Stars by six wickets in the eliminator at Beckenham today (Wednesday 21 September).
They scored 143 for four to win, with 16 overs to spare, having earlier bowled out the Stars for 139, with Tara Norris taking three for 29.
Jemima Spence anchored the innings as the Stars recovered from 37 for five, making her highest List A score of 45 not out. But the second highest contribution was 28 extras – and the hosts were all out after 42.2 overs.
In a run chase devoid of tension, Ella McCaughan and Maia Bouchier put on 98 for the first wicket before the latter was bowled for 51, while the former fell for 47.
The Vipers have now played the Stars five times in this competition and have won all five contests.
Beckenham may have a reputation as a batters’ paradise but, when play started at 10.30am, the conditions were overcast, damp and chilly.
After winning the toss, the Stars chose to bat, only to lose three wickets in the first four overs. Chloe Hill stumped Kira Chatli off Charlotte Taylor for one in the second over and Bryony Smith made just seven before she edged Tara Norris behind in the third.
Norris then claimed her second victim in the fourth when Chloe Brewer was brilliantly caught in the slips by Bouchier.
After a partial rebuild, debutant Mary Taylor struck twice in as many overs. Phoebe Franklin was bowled for 15 before Rhianna Southby was lbw for one.
Paige Scholfield struck in her first over, trapping Ryana MacDonald-Gay lbw for eight and Finty Trussler was just seven balls into her spell when she bowled Davies for four.
Norris bowled Alexa Stonehouse for 11 and when Georgia Adams ran out Eva Gray for one, deflecting a straight drive from Spence on to the stumps, the Stars were 100 for nine.
By that point, however, conditions were improving and Danielle Gregory joined Spence to put on the biggest partnership of the innings, contributing 13 from 34 balls before she was bowled by Trussler.
The sun was shining by the time the Vipers began the chase and with the required rate under three an over there was little pressure on the openers. Neither Bouchier nor McCaughan offered the bowlers any encouragement as they cruised towards the target.
Bouchier strolled past 50 with a single to mid off from Gregory before she tried to pull Davies and played on. McCaughan holed out to Smith and was caught by Davies at long on but by then the visitors only needed 30 to win.
Franklin subsequently bowled Adams for one with a ball that nipped back but Scholfield, having levelled the scores with a six over long on, was then bowled by Gregory’s next ball for 11.
It left Emily Windsor to drive the winning boundary through the covers and send them through to their third consecutive final against the Diamonds.
Southern Vipers’ Maia Bouchier said: “I’m so happy to be in the final at Lord’s with the girls again. We’re just really excited to be there and hopefully we can do what we did today on Sunday.
“We just bowled really well up top – and Mary, coming in on her debut, what a debut to have. She just bowled what we talked about, hard lengths, nice and straight and hit the stumps.
“All the bowlers just did their jobs and it was pretty easy for us to go in and be calm and collected. Obviously, we batted really well together and we just talked about playing to our strengths and being positive, not being too chilled. We both batted really well together. It’s always nice to be able to bat freely and that’s what we did.
“We tried to take it (the eliminator) in our stride. Obviously last week wasn’t to our plans but we go into this final with a win on our back and I think we can just take that into the next game and use that momentum. We bowled really well and everyone’s played really well so I think we just take that into Sunday.
Asked about a possible hat-trick of wins in the trophy, she said: “We’re very excited. It’ll be a special day for some people and for me as well. It’s technically my home ground. Lord’s is a special place, everyone will be excited to be there and to put on a show for everyone who’s coming.
“I just try to be as positive as possible and play to my strengths. Once I hit a couple straight down to mid off I feel in good touch so that’s something I’ve been trying to work on as much as possible.”
South East Stars’ Bryony Smith said: “It’s always tough. That’s our second semi this season that we’ve lost but I’m really proud of how this season’s gone.
“It’s been a very hit or miss season in that we’ve lost a lot of players to England and injuries as well so we’ve had to really rely on our whole squad which has been really pleasing to see. We’re really excited for the winter coming and next season.
“You never know (with the toss). We listened to what the groundsman said and they said it might get a little bit worse but it ended up doing the opposite.
“It’s nothing we could really control. We won the toss and chose on what we thought would happen but we didn’t bat well enough and it’s as simple as that really.
“I’m really proud of how we actually got to that target. We could have easily just got to 60 or whatever and just skittled completely but credit to Jemima, our youngest player, and Danni at the end. She really stuck in and there are a lot of positives to take.
“We said at the start, semi-finals can do funny things. You never know with cricket. With an extra 60 or so runs on the board we could have really had a tough game.”
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