Suzie Bates clattered an unbeaten 47 as Southern Vipers’ bid to retain the Kia Super League got off to the perfect start by mauling Western Storm with a bonus-point win.
Bates, currently ranked as the ICC’s second best t20 player in the world, blew Storm away with her power hitting – as the hosts chased down 70 inside nine overs.
The win by nine wickets was played out in front of a packed Ageas Bowl – with 2,300 supporters already in place by the first ball, with more arriving throughout the match.
The Storm, who lost the 2016 final to the Vipers, struggled to get going after being stuck in on a slow looking track but it took until the third over before Natasha Farrant found a tiny outside edge behind.
Left-arm spinner Linsey Smith was one of the breakthrough players of the inaugural Kia Super League and began this year by bowling England captain Heather Knight.
Georgia Hennessey only managed eight from her first 24 balls before striking the first boundary of the tournament – a huge six over long on – in a 16-run over off Arran Brindle.
But that is where the run scoring stalled again, as Smith completed her impressive spell bowling 15 dot balls to end with figures of one for nine.
The wickets continued as Hennessey was lbw to Suzie Bates’ second ball before Stafanie Taylor drilled straight to a juggling Charlotte Edwards at mid-off.
Sophie Luff was run out by an Edwards direct hit, Alice MacLeod was caught and bowled by New Zealander Bates and then Fran Wilson was caught behind off home grown fast bowler Katie George.
The collapse ended with Jodie Dibble being run out by Brindle, Haley Matthews bowling Claire Nicholas and Freya Davies being caught short by a phenomenal boundary throw from Smith.
Chasing 71 to win, the Vipers were given a lucky escape when Bates narrowly managed to make her ground when she charged Nicholas.
The Storm had struggled for boundaries in their innings, only striking three in their 18.5 overs, but the hosts found the ropes much easier.
West Indian Matthews hit two fours, after the first over had been blocked for a maiden.
At the other end Bates was also clubbing the ball all around the Ageas Bowl – with a dance and flick through the off-side the pick of her strikes.
The White Ferns skipper then pinged a straight six down the ground – the Vipers smashing 34 off Huddleston’s second over.
Matthews was caught by Hennessey after looping one into the covers but Bates cleared the ropes for a second time to win the game.