Lizelle Lee, Bryony Smith, Natalie Sciver and Dane van Niekerk hit key runs as Surrey Stars beat Western Storm on the last day of the league stage of the Women’s Cricket Super League.
Storm had already made the top two, and therefore ensured a Finals Day appearance for themselves, but they would have wanted to finish on a high, and get to the top of the table to avoid the semi-final.
That wasn’t to be, though, as they put up only 158/5 after being asked to bat at The Oval, which the Stars overhauled with two balls left.
Smriti Mandhana had a rare failure, run out for 5, but Rachel Priest and Heather Knight gave the innings good momentum, and Knight carried on even after Priest was bowled by van Niekerk (2/20) within the Powerplay for a 20-ball 30.
🙌 YES! See you at Finals Day!— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) August 18, 2018
Sophia Dunkley with a beautiful drive to the boundary to take Surrey Stars 🌟 to Finals Day.
A five wicket victory over Western Storm at the Kia Oval. pic.twitter.com/jFjokY8vlD
Knight, the captain, scored 62 in 47 balls, but with no other batter apart from Fran Wilson (28 in 26 balls) contributing much, the total didn’t reach where Storm would have wanted.
The Stars reply was a combined effort. Lee and Smith set the ball rolling with a 90-run stand for the first wicket in just under 10 overs, before the South African fell for a 28-ball 48. Smith was dismissed for 39 in 35 balls, and the chase stuttered around that stage as they slipped to 95/3, Sarah Taylor going cheaply too.
But Sciver, the captain, and van Niekerk hit 30 and 25 respectively, before Sophie Dunkley and Marizanne Kapp finished off the job.
The result meant Surrey ended with 24 points, three more than Lancashire Thunder, who had boosted their hopes of an appearance on Finals Day with a win over Southern Vipers, who finished last on the table.
The Stars will now take on Storm again in the semi-final in Hove on 27 August, with the winner taking on Loughborough Lightning in the final on the same day.
“A great game of cricket,” Sciver said on Sky Sports afterwards. “I think we’ve pretty much done really well when chasing. In T20 cricket, the batters can go out there and plan how they’re going to go about it.”
It was nice for Fran Wilson to get a bit of a bat today, she hasn’t had the opportunities probably in this tournament
Knight, whose Storm were top of the table before a couple of late reversals, said, “I thought we had enough to win it. It was really hard work batting out there, it was slow, Surrey took the pace off the ball brilliantly, and obviously a little bit of turn as well.
“We started brilliantly with the ball, actually, just didn’t take those early wickets in the Powerplay. And then Surrey got away from us a little bit. We dragged it back in the middle brilliantly. It was a game of twists and turns, wasn’t it, but Surrey deserved to win in the end.”
Interestingly, the Stars have beaten Storm both the times they have faced off in the competition, making their semi-final a mouth-watering prospect.
Making things tougher for Storm is the fact that Mandhana, the tournament’s top scorer with 421 runs – Knight is second with 334 – won’t be around for Finals Day because of her commitments with the Indian national team.
“Obviously she’ll be a big loss for us, she’s been outstanding at the top of the order,” acknowledged Knight. “But we’ve got some brilliant batters out there. It was nice for Fran Wilson to get a bit of a bat today, she hasn’t had the opportunities probably in this tournament. She’s a quality batter, so it’s nice to see her get a few runs.
“It’s one game, and we’ve got to go out and approach it like that and hopefully play our best cricket.”