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Ryana MacDonald-Gay took a career-best five for 31 before opener Tash Farrant continued her fine start to the season with an unbeaten 68 as South East Stars made it two wins from two by thumping The Blaze in their Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy clash in Leicester.

England star Farrant, who hit a career-best 94 as Stars opened with a victory over holders Southern Vipers last weekend, led the way as Bryony Smith’s side eased to an eight-wicket win with a 159 balls to spare.

It could have been more comfortable still but for a competition-record partnership saving The Blaze’s blushes after they had been reduced to 49 for nine after winning the toss and choosing to bat. Skipper Kirstie Gordon and number 11 Grace Ballinger’s stand of 77 was the highest for the 10th wicket by any side since the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy was launched in 2020.

England’s Sarah Glenn returned for The Blaze for her first action since suffering a concussion injury a month ago but last season’s runners-up were still without four first-choice players because of international commitments with three others injured.

Badly depleted at the top of the batting order, The Blaze were in trouble from ball one as opener Marie Kelly, one of the more experienced of their available batters, reached for MacDonald-Gay’s opening delivery and bottom-edged into her stumps.

Wickets two and three came in each of her next two overs as MacDonald-Gay fixed her aim with Sophie Munro and Ella Claridge having no answer to balls arrowed in at the stumps.

A rocky start for The Blaze rapidly became worse as MacDonald-Gay’s new-ball partner Phoebe Franklin found enough away movement to remove South Africa all-rounder Nadine de Klerk and Glenn in the space of four deliveries, with neither making a run, the former caught behind before Glenn edged to second slip, as 16 for three became 17 for five.

Teresa Graves was dropped at extra cover off Franklin but the Stars were soon celebrating again as MacDonald-Gay trapped Daisy Mullan in front.

A boundary apiece from Graves and Bethany Harmer gave The Blaze momentary encouragement but it was promptly nipped in the bud as another straight ball from MacDonald-Gay accounted for Graves and handed the England A bowler the reward of a first five-wicket haul in women’s List A cricket.

The Blaze were 39 for seven and there was no respite as England seamer Alice Davidson-Richards took over at the Bennett End and picked up a wicket first ball as Harmer was caught at backward point, MacDonald-Gay adding to her impressive morning’s work by taking a fine one-handed catch.

When Davidson-Richards then dismissed Cassidy McCarthy, The Blaze were 49 for nine with barely 75 minutes played and the end seemed to be coming quickly.

But Gordon and Ballinger had other ideas, the last-wicket pair holding up the Stars for more than an hour and a half, taking a mature, measured approach that saw them resist any temptation to throw the bat and concentrating instead on working the gaps in what is English domestic cricket’s largest playing areas, with only a quarter of their runs coming in boundaries.

Ballinger passed her previous List A best of 18 before she was leg before to the off-spin of a palpably relieved Smith, with Gordon’s unbeaten 41 her best List A score in English domestic cricket.

Their efforts had at least given themselves and their fellow bowlers a bigger total to defend than had seemed likely but it was still nowhere near enough to deny the Stars, for whom Smith made 34 from 33 balls before Farrant took charge, hitting five fours and two sixes in her 81-ball innings.

Both Farrant and Smith made good use of the shorter, straight boundaries before Smith holed out to mid-on following an 82-run opening stand, with Gordon bowling Scholfield for The Blaze’s only other success.