Georgie Boyce hit a brilliant unbeaten 63 to steer The Blaze to a five-wicket victory over the South East Stars in the opening round of the Charlotte Edwards Trophy at Beckenham.
Boyce played a pivotal innings as the visitors recovered from a mid-innings wobble to win with four balls to spare, cashing in on a number of dropped chances to close on 161 for five in reply to the Stars’ 160 for eight.
Phoebe Franklin was the Stars’ top scorer, hitting 53 from 32 balls and when she removed Tammy Beaumont for 48 it sparked a mini-collapse that had made the hosts look favourites until Boyce intervened.
Nadine de Klerk had The Blaze’s best bowling figures with three for 21 while Nat Sciver-Brunt took two for 46.
The Blaze won the toss and chose to bowl at a blustery, overcast New County Ground, a decision that looked questionable when Bryony Smith smacked 14 off Grace Ballinger’s first over, but her quickfire innings came to an end when Kirstie Gordon had her caught on the long on boundary by Marie Kelly for 18.
Ballinger then trapped Tash Farrant for a three-ball duck and Paige Scholfield was out for four, driving Scivrer-Brunt’s second ball to Sarah Glenn at cover.
Sophia Dunkley led an aggressive but short-lived counterattack until Sarah Glenn bowled her for 20 and it was left to Phoebe Franklin and Kira Chathli to rebuild the innings with a partnership of 68.
Chathli should have been out for 22 but Glenn dropped a dolly off her own bowling, though she fell soon after when she tried to scoop Nadine de Klerk and was bowled for 24.
Franklin brought up her 50 when she pulled Gordon through mid-wicket for a single but she was finally out in the 19th over when she dragged a Sciver-Brunt delivery onto her stumps.
Alice Davidson-Richards took the Stars past 150 with an elegant pull off Sciver-Brunt for four, but she was bowled by de Klerk in the final over, also for 24.
De Klerk’s next delivery pinged back Kalea Moore’s leg stump and although Freya Davies blocked out the hat-trick ball, she couldn’t scramble any additional runs.
It looked a challenging total but Beaumont made an electrifying start to the chase, which included a huge six over cow corner. Her opening stand of 30 with Marie Kelly was broken when the latter was snared by Davidson-Richards off Scholfield for five.
Beaumont was on 42 when she misjudged a Franklin delivery and although Davies couldn’t take a difficult chance, a cluster of wickets tilted the momentum back in the Stars’ favour.
The Blaze were on 6 for one in the ninth over when Scholfield had Sciver-Brunt caught for 19 near the midwicket boundary by Farrant and in the tenth Ryana MacDonald-Gay claimed the key wicket of Beaumont, who fell to a brilliant diving catch by Smith.
In the 11th Davidson-Richards had Kathryn Bryce caught behind and Glenn then holed to Franklin and was caught on the boundary by Davidson-Richards for four.
At 91 for five the Blaze were in deep trouble, but Boyce then took centre stage, reaching her 50 with a drive off Davies that was nearly caught at deep cover but went for two.
De Klerk played the anchor role at the other end and herself survived a tough chance for caught behind off Richardson-Davies.
The Blaze needed just two from the final over and de Klerk hit the winning runs when she carved Davidson-Richards through the covers.
Franklin said: “When you personally do well, but don’t win as a team it’s a bit frustrating but there’s a lot of positives to take from that performance.