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South East Stars held their nerve to win the chance to take on The Blaze in the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup, beating holders Southern Vipers by five runs in a gripping semi-final that went down to the last over.

Although seven wickets down, Vipers fancied that their experience would carry them through after needing 21 from the last three overs but two fine overs from Tilly Corteen-Coleman and Ryana MacDonald-Gay left them with a requirement of 10 off the final over, the key moment coming when Charlie Dean (43 from 29 balls) was run out off Tash Farrant’s second ball of that over..

Sophia Dunkley (49 off 34) and Georgia Redmayne (39 off 38) had earlier shared a second-wicket stand of 74 to give the Stars a strong platform after losing skipper Bryony Smith earlier before Paige Scholfield cracked an unbeaten 34 off 22 balls to post 162 for five.

Danni Wyatt struck 34 from 17 to get Vipers off to a flying start in reply but Corteen-Coleman (two for 23), Dani Gregory (two for 25) in particular bowled superbly to give Stars the edge.

Having opted to bowl first, the Vipers dealt the Stars a big blow in the fourth over when Bryony Smith hauled Dean over the midwicket boundary for her second six but skewed the next delivery into the hands of extra cover, but the Stars made a bright start nonetheless, with Sophia Dunkley assuming the lead role and Georgia Redmayne offering solid support.

They turned 48 for one after six overs to 92 for one after 12, giving themselves a platform to set the defending champions a testing chase.

Vipers were concerned enough to turn to left-arm spinner Linsey Smith in mid-innings rather than keep her back for the death. It paid off, a flighted turning ball combined with some nifty glovework behind the stumps sending Dunkley on her way one short of a half-century. Freya Davies bowled Emma Jones in the next over to leave the Stars 109 for three with 34 balls remaining.

Scholfield’s clean hitting advanced the total by 36 in three overs and though they were checked by a couple of good death overs by Charli Knott and Davies, Vipers knew they would need to bat well to win.

Needing a tad over eight an over, Vipers scored at nines in the powerplay, although at a cost of two important wickets. England’s Maia Bouchier fell for two, bowled behind her legs to add to the growing list of big scalps acquired by 16-year-old left-arm spinner Corteen-Coleman. Australian all-rounder Knott hit 21 as she and Wyatt plundered 48 from 29 balls but the last ball of the opening six saw her bowled by Smith sweeping.

An even bigger blow for the Vipers came as Wyatt, looking in ruthless mood and picking up her second six in the same over, hit Gregory’s leg spin down the throat of deep mid-wicket.

At 84 for three at the halfway point, Vipers were still well in the chase but lost another wicket in an eventful 11th over that saw skipper Georgia Adams caught off a no-ball and dropped off a legitimate delivery before Freya Kemp was stumped as Gregory claimed a second success.

When Adams then became another victim of Redmayne’s sharp hands behind the stumps off some more clever bowling by Corteen-Coleman, the balance was tilting in the Stars’ favour, an impression that was strengthened when Smith had Georgia Elwiss leg before and Rhianna Southby was run out by a brilliant throw by MacDonald-Gay running in from deep midwicket.

Dean now held the key. She eased the pressure by hoisting Smith over the long-on boundary but a five-run final over from Corteen-Coleman left Vipers needing 16 from the last two overs, which became 10 from six balls after MacDonald-Gay’s last over restricted them to six singles.

The decisive blow came with five balls left as Dean, at the bowler’s end after taking a single off Farrant, as non-striker, committed to running whatever Linsey Smith did at the other end but was left hopelessly out of her ground as Farrant picked up the ball in her follow through and turned to break the stumps, Vipers ultimately finishing six short of their target.