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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Heather Knight, Fran Wilson fifties lift Storm to dramatic victory

Heather Knight flays one away through cover point Getty Images

England colleagues Heather Knight and Fran Wilson staged a brilliant recovery as Western Storm beat Lancashire Thunder by six wickets to extend their 100 percent record in Kia Super League matches at Taunton.

Suné Luus top-scored with 62 from 48 balls to help Thunder, seeking their first success in five meetings with Storm, to post a competitive 141 for 6 after winning the toss and electing to bat on a drying pitch.

But her efforts were eclipsed by Knight and Wilson, who both scored half centuries and staged a restorative stand of 88 in 11.3 overs for the third wicket. Wilson posted 54 from 35 balls, while Knight finished unbeaten on 50 as Storm reached their target with three balls to spare.

Required to chase 142 at 7.1 runs an over, Storm were well and truly up against it after slumping to 18 for 2 inside four overs, star openers Smriti Mandhana and Rachel Priest both suffering rare failures.

The leading run-scorer in KSL a year ago, India star Mandhana gave Sophie Ecclestone's slow left arm the charge and was superbly caught by compatriot Harmanpreet Kaur at long-on for two. Big-hitting Priest followed two overs later, chipping Emma Lamb's off spin to cover point for 12.

Keeping their cool in trying circumstances, Wilson and Knight saw off the dangerous Ecclestone and proved adept at finding the gaps as they advanced the score to 58 for 2 at halfway.

Wilson brought up her 50 with her eighth four, only to then offer a return catch to Alex Hartley with 36 more runs needed from 27 balls.

Somerset's Sophie Luff calmed any nerves thereafter, scoring 22 from 13 balls to see her side to within sight of victory. Calm under pressure, skipper Knight hit the winning runs, driving Kate Cross to the boundary in the final over to raise 50 from 52 balls.

"We knew our partnership was key," Knight told Sky. "We lost those two early wickets, and knew the pitch was quite slow, and that it was going to be hard to score heavily at the back end. I was just trying to give Fran the strike at one point.

"She batted lovely - hit her areas really well, manipulated the field. I'm really pleased for her. She's worked really hard on her T20 game, so for her to play that innings and win the game for us today was outstanding."

"We were in the game for a long time," reflected Thunder captain Cross. "Heather and Fran needed [to score at] eights for most of the game, and we nearly got them up to nines at one point. There were a few loose balls under pressure. Hats off to Heather and Fran, the way they batted - they didn't really give us a chance."

Desperate to make amends following back-to-back defeats at the hands of Southern Vipers and Surrey Stars, the Thunder were rather more competitive on this occasion, thanks in large part to South African international Luus.

Intent upon establishing herself beneath lowering skies, the 25-year-old allrounder played a perfectly-paced innings, relying on clever placement and quick running between the wickets before accelerating during the middle overs.

She dominated a progressive second-wicket stand of 66 in 11 overs with Tahlia McGrath, raised her first KSL 50 from 42 balls and then went on the attack, accruing three fours and four sixes before dancing down the wicket to Nicholas and top-edging to short fine leg in the 15th over with the score 98 for 3.

A perfect foil for Luus, McGrath compiled 22 from 30 balls, helping to provide a platform for India World Cup star Kaur. Finishing the innings with a flourish, Kaur contributed a quickfire 30 from 18 balls, with a quartet of fours, to ensure the Thunder posted a meaningful total.

Electing to put their faith in spin on a used pitch, the Storm benefited from taking the pace off the ball, the naggingly accurate trio of Nicholas, Knight and Deepti Sharma returning combined figures of 3 for 68 from 12 overs.

So often an unsung hero, Welsh offspinner Nicholas claimed 2 for 25, including 16 dot balls, and weighed in with a catch, while India recruit Sharma kept things tight to finish with 22 for 1 from four overs.

Storm 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st8RH PriestS Mandhana
2nd10RH PriestHC Knight
3rd88HC KnightFC Wilson
4th33HC KnightSN Luff
5th4HC KnightDB Sharma

Women's Cricket Super League

TeamMWLPTNRR
WS880340.857
VP842220.812
LL743190.528
SS72411-0.731
YD7258-0.709
LT7062-1.002