Southern Vipers retain Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy thanks to dramatic late rally against Northern Diamonds
Emily Windsor and Tara Norris staged a dramatic late rally as Southern Vipers stole victory from Northern Diamonds in a dramatic Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final at Wantage Road.
Vipers looked for all the world like they’d come up short in their pursuit of 184 when Katie Levick (one for 20) and Jenny Gunn (3-31) reduced them to 109-7.
However, Portsmouth-born Windsor (47 not out) and Norris (40 not out), who had earlier returned 2-36, trumped the Diamonds with an unbeaten stand of 78 as the reigning champions sneaked home by three wickets with two balls to spare.
All this came after Ami Campbell (60) scored a half-century for the second time in four days to drag Diamonds from 116-8 to 183 all out, Georgia Adams taking 4-35.
It meant more heartbreak for Diamonds who lost to Vipers in last year’s final and who were bridesmaids at the Charlotte Edwards Cup showpiece earlier this month (having beaten Vipers in the semi-final at The Ageas Bowl).
Diamonds sent Linsey Smith in to open, but hopes she’d pinch-hit proved unfounded, though Hollie Armitage was first to go bowled by Paige Scholfield.
Smith limped to 31 from 65 balls before becoming the first of Adams’ victims, sparking a collapse where three wickets fell for a single.
Bess Heath struck the first boundary for 11 overs before Norris trapped her lbw, replays suggesting the ball pitched outside leg stump. Another collapse followed, four wickets tumbling for four runs and at 116-8 Diamonds were in dire straits.
Campbell, though, refused to go quietly, striking four boundaries to reach 50 in 63 balls and by the time she holed out in the final over the last two wickets had mustered 67.
Their total of 183 looked worth more when Beth Langston plucked out the off stumps of Adams and Ella McCaughan, both for nought to leave Vipers 6-2.
Maia Bouchier, released from the England squad to play in the final, struck the game’s first six – an effortless pull over square leg - but Phoebe Graham removed Georgia Elwiss caught behind.
Bouchier forged on, taking two fours from one Graham over only be stumped by Heath off the spin of Levick, who in company with Smith slowed the run chase to a crawl.
With the pressure mounting, Gunn castled Gabi Lewis before having Scholfield stunningly caught by Armitage and trapping Carla Rudd first ball.
But Norris saved the hat-trick and so began the match-winning stand.
‘It was a dramatic game with a lot of ups and downs,’ said Norris. ‘We bowled really well at the start and we knew it was an achievable total to chase down.
‘I was glad I was there at the end with Winny (Emily Windsor) to see it home.
‘When I walked out I just said to Winny we've got to take it deep. If we bat the 50 overs we win the game. So it was about holding our nerve just that little bit longer, playing our usual cricket, nothing high risk.
‘I guess it was just pure desire. We spoke to Lotte (Vipers coach Charlotte Edwards) today and there was that hunger to win. This was my third final and I've never won anything so I didn't want to walk off the pitch until the game was over.
‘I knew I had it in me and knew I wanted to do well for the team. I personally don't feel I've contributed enough in the 50 over comp, so today I saw a real opportunity to go out there and contribute to my team and do them proud.
‘I was devastated not to have got over the line in the Charlotte Edwards Cup and I think that was in the back of my mind. I knew I didn't want to feel that way again.’