The Blaze are through to the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final after they beat the South East Stars by eight wickets in the Eliminator at Beckenham.
Chasing a DLS revised target of 52 from 10 overs, The Blaze won with eight balls to spare when Sarah Bryce hit Bryony Smith for a six that just cleared the boundary rope at long off.
The Stars were earlier bowled out for just 148, with Marie Kelly, who had the best figures of two for seven, one of four Blaze bowlers to claim two wickets. Ryana MacDonald-Gay was the Stars top-scorer with 26.
The Blaze will now play the Southern Vipers in Sunday’s final at Northampton, but only after an afternoon that at times bordered on the surreal: at one point it looked like the tie might be decided by an old-school “bowl out” after three and half hours were lost to rain.
The match was nominally a home game for the Blaze, whose spluttering end-of-season form had seen them forfeit automatic qualification for the final, but it was switched to the Stars’ home ground because of the reported lack of a suitable venue in the East Midlands area.
Epic quantities of rain had fallen across Kent overnight but by the scheduled start of play the New County Ground was bathed in sunshine. A knowledgable-sounding voice in the sparse crowd predicted The Stars would need “at least 300” on the usually road-like Beckenham wicket, but after choosing to bat they looked like they’d struggle to reach three figures.
They lost Kira Chathli to just the second ball of the innings, when she was bowled by Grace Ballinger. Captain Smith was next to go, bowled by Kirstie Gordon for 21 before Alice Capsey played on to Josie Groves for five.
Gordon then bowled Alice Davidson-Richards middle-stump for eight and Alexa Stonehouse went for 20 swishing Lucy Higham to mid-wicket.
Kelly then had Paige Scholfield caught and bowled for three and in her next over Kelly had Aylish Cranstone lbw for 13.
After a brief rain delay Bethan Miles was perhaps unlucky to be given lbw to an inswinger from Kathryn Bryce for 17, but Ryana MacDonald-Gay and Chloe Hill put on 33 for the ninth wicket before the latter went for 21, pulling Bryce to Sophie Munro at mid-wicket.
If that represented something of a recovery, there were still seven overs left when Mac-Donald Gay charged down the wicket to Higham and was stumped by Sarah Bryce.
The Blaze lost Lizelle Lee for a duck when her fellow opener Sarah Bryce called her for a single. A split-second’s hesitation left her inches short when Davidson-Richards throw was gathered in by Chathli, who ran her out.
However, the rain returned at 2pm and with prospects of a resumption dwindling fans and players alike were left combing through the playing regulations to see what would happen if “no result” was declared.
There was an assumption that The Blaze, having finished second in the table, would go through, but the wording was ambivalent: if the captains agreed, there could be a bowl-out. If they couldn’t agree, it was up to the umpires to decide whether or not there should be a bowl out – and if a bowl was not deemed “possible” The Blaze would go through.
It felt like a farcical way to decide a match of this stature, but half an hour before the cut off Stars players could be seen bowling at undefended stumps in the pavilion’s indoor nets. There was no harm in being prepared but at this point, perhaps mercifully, the sun came out.
Eventually, with no PA announcer on hand, the revised target was revealed on Twitter.
Play finally resumed at 5.25pm, The Blaze needing 37 from 6.4 overs.
“We’ve got no chance,” said a Stars fan, although before the over was out Stonehouse had Kelly caught behind.
Conditions deteriorated again and the light was poor but that was as close as the Stars came.
Sarah Bryce and Georgie Boyce chipped away at the target and it was the former who hit the winning runs in some style, ending as the game’s top corer on 34 not out.