Paige Scholfield staged a magnificent innings to register her second century in three matches and help South East Stars beat Western Storm by 207 runs in a one-sided Rachael Heyhoe Flint fixture at Bristol’s Seat Unique Stadium.
Continuing her outstanding start to the campaign, in-form Scholfield scored 134 not out in front of watching England head coach Jon Lewis, dominating a match-winning stand of 128 with Tash Farrant and ensuring Stars recovered from 19-3 and 74-4 to post an imposing 296-7 after winning the toss and electing to bat first on a used pitch.
Skipper Bryony Smith weighed in with 50 on a day when the rest of the top order failed, while new-ball bowlers Lauren Filer and Dani Gibson claimed three wickets apiece to keep Storm in the hunt.
It was all too much for Storm, who never looked likely to stage a sustained chase following the loss of early wickets. Alice Capsey claimed 6-28 and fellow spinner Smith 3-13 to confirm Stars’ superiority as the hosts were skittled for just 89 inside 31 overs.
In tremendous form already this season, Scholfield produced the goods just when her team most needed it. Dismissed for 129 and heavily beaten by Southern Vipers last time out, Stars again found themselves in a tight situation at 19-3, the cream of their top order returned to the dressing room inside eight overs.
Openers Kira Chathli and Alice Capsey fell to successive deliveries, the former lured into front-foot indiscretion by Gibson and miss-timing a drive to mid-off, the latter losing off stump to a Lauren Filer in-swinger. Worse followed when England international Alice Davidson Richards attempted to cut Gibson and was brilliantly caught by Fran Wilson at backward point.
Captain Bryony Smith carried the fight to Storm, harvesting eight boundaries in a 43-ball 50 and dominating a progressive stand of 57 with Jemima Spence for the fourth wicket. But when she chanced her arm once too often and hit the next ball, sent down by Chloe Skelton, straight down the throat of long-on, Stars were 74-4 and the innings still in the balance.
Necessarily circumspect to begin with, Spence and Scholfield went about rebuilding in assured fashion. As the sun came out and conditions eased, so they allowed themselves to become more expansive, adding 66 for the fifth wicket in 18.3 overs before Filer returned to bowl Spence for 29 with a slower ball yorker. Gibson then trapped Phoebe Franklin in her crease for nine to reduce the visitors to 160-6 in the 37th over, but Scholfield quickly dashed any hopes Storm might have harboured of restricting their opponents to a below-par total.
Now in full flow, the South African-born all-rounder played with real panache, opening her shoulders and going for her shots to force Storm onto the back foot for the first time. Having gone to 50 from 62 balls, she required just 30 deliveries more to raise three figures, raising that landmark with a hard-hit four to cow corner at the expense of Alex Griffiths. It was her second hundred in three innings this season following hard on the heels of the 111 not out she scored in a winning cause against Thunder at Old Trafford nine days earlier.
Farrant proved the perfect foil, initially rotating the strike and running hard between the wickets, before herself going on the attack during the closing overs. The England star contributed a valuable 45 in 32 balls, including 5 fours, and played her part in a breathtaking partnership of 128 in 12.5 overs before falling to Filer in the final over. Try as they might, there was nothing Storm’s hard-pressed bowlers could do to check Scholfield’s murderous progress, the 27-year-old holding sway for 109 balls, helping herself to 14 fours and 3 sixes to propel her side to a position of strength that had looked most unlikely earlier in the day.
Gibson and Filer returned figures of 3-42 and 3-60 but, in the main, it was hard going for Storm’s bowlers.
As much as they required a fast start, Storm’s reply was frustrated by some naggingly accurate bowling, especially from the ubiquitous Farrant and Scholfield. Emma Corney helped Griffiths add 39 for the first wicket before succumbing to Alexa Stonehouse, at which point the hosts were no doubt hoping for a repeat performance from new signing Prendergast, who made a hundred on debut against Thunder at Cardiff two days earlier. There was to be no repeat on this occasion, the Ireland all-rounder chipping Capsey to mid-off and departing for 18 to leave Storm on 59-2 in the 21st over, needing to score at more than eight an over.
When experienced campaigner Fran Wilson was held at short fine leg off the bowling of Smith without scoring in the very next over, Griffiths followed her back to the pavilion four balls later, caught and bowled by Capsey for 21 and Gibson offered a return catch to Smith, Storm were 81-5 and staring down the barrel of defeat.
Storm’s demise unfolded with indecent haste thereafter, Smith having Nat Wraith caught behind off the finest of edges and Capsey mopping up the tail, accounting for Niamh Holland, Sophia Smale, Filer and Claire Nicholas in quick succession.
Stars captain Bryony Smith said: “That was the perfect way to bounce back after a defeat. We were so disappointed with the manner in which we lost to Vipers, because we didn’t play our way. Today, I think you saw our brand of cricket – positive, enterprising and played on the front foot.
“Despite losing some early wickets, batting first was definitely the right thing to do on that wicket, and we saw that as the game unfolded. Young Jemima Spence played brilliantly for a 16-year-old and we were able to put on a decent partnership to get out of trouble. Then Paige Scholfield did what she does best and exploded. That’s twice she’s played like than in three matches now and shows exactly why we signed her.
“We knew that 296 was a very good score and the plan was always to open up with the seamers and then squeeze them with spin. Alice Capsey bowled extremely well to wrap things up and she deserves that success.”