Southern Brave 94 for 0 (Mandhana 57*) beat Trent Rockets 88 for 8 (Bell 4-10, Wellington 3-18) by ten wickets
Victory for Brave all but confirmed that they will finish the group stages top and advance to the final for the second year in a row, whilst defeat for Rockets means they must rely on several other results if they are to have any chance of finishing in the top three.
At the close of Wednesday’s men’s match between London Spirit and Welsh Fire, Dan Lawrence said: “the thing with T20 cricket, is when you get on a roll of winning games, it’s really easy to find a formula and keep doing it over and over again.”
It is a message that Brave live by. Two years into this competition and they have won 12 of their 14 matches and are unbeaten at home – their two losses coming in a rain-reduced game away to Manchester Originals and an aberrational collapse in last year’s final against Oval Invincibles.
Their bowling attack is plug-and-play repeatable and relentless by nature. Anya Shrubsole and Bell cramp you for room up top with their big inswingers, before the left-arm of Freya Kemp, the spin of Georgia Adams and the seam of McGrath continue the chokehold throughout the middle. The result is that you are forced to try to attack Wellington’s legspin. Her 3 for 18 against Rockets put her top of this season’s wicket-taking rankings and extended her lead as the all-time leading wicket-taker of the women’s Hundred with 25 at 11.60.
Rockets neither found, nor were allowed, room to breathe. Their struggles were best exemplified by a torturous innings for skipper Nat Sciver, who scored 19 off 30 deliveries without a boudary before eventually trying to force the issue against Wellington and perishing like so many before her. Wellington is the forbidden fruit of this attack. We told you. We warned you. We all knew. And yet you took a bite anyway.
Bell’s fine opening spell picked up two wickets, including the crucial scalp of Marie Kelly whose 22 off 15 was the sole bright spot in an otherwise miserable Rockets innings, and her figures went from good to great as she picked up two cheapies with the final two balls of the innings to finish with a fantastic analysis of 4-10.
The kindest thing you can say about Brave is that they are at least humane in their executions. Having restricted Rockets to just 88, they began their chase with a Mandhana four and never looked back. Why make Rockets suffer when we all have homes to go to?
Mandhana and Danni Wyatt are the archetypal cricketing opening partnership. Left-hand, right-hand, power combined with precision, confidence bordering on arrogance. They make you feel safe. They’d fix your boiler and bemoan the poor job that the hack before them had done last time.
“Hopefully I don’t have to see you again for a while,” they smile on the way out. And they’re right, so you consider taking a hammer to the boiler just so they come back.
Not since the sun rose in the east has something felt as inevitable as Brave’s ten-wicket win here. Rockets’ spin twins Sarah Glenn and Alana King have so far been their superstrength. And yet Mandhana and Wyatt treated them with almost abusive contempt. Their combined 15 balls went for 32 runs. Wyatt pulled and paddle swept. Mandhana hammered down the ground. The fielders as useful as scarecrows.
Mandhana went to fifty to take the scores level, before hitting another six to confirm the most dominant of ten-wicket wins with 44 balls still to spare.
Southern Brave won. It’s Thursday. And the sun will rise in the east once more tomorrow.
Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby