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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Heather Knight leads Western Storm to KSL title with unbeaten 78 against Southern Vipers

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Tammy Beaumont praises Danni Wyatt despite KSL loss (1:42)

Southern Vipers captain Tammy Beaumont hails Danni Wyatt after she made an impressive 73 in their final loss to Western Storm at Hove. (1:42)

Western Storm 174 for 4 (Knight 78*, Sharma 39*) beat Southern Vipers 172 for 7 (Wyatt 73) by six wickets

An unbeaten 78 from England captain Heather Knight saw Western Storm win their second and final Kia Super League title in a thrilling run chase at Hove.

Southern Vipers posted an imposing 172 for 7 after winning the toss, led by a 42-ball 73 from Danni Wyatt, but were left to rue the fact that the final six overs of their effort heralded only 38 runs, as the Storm turned things around after a loose start.

They had fallen behind the rate in the chase after the early wickets of Smriti Mandhana and Rachel Priest, and were in some bother at 103 for 4 when Deepti Sharma strode to the crease, but her unbeaten stand of 71 in 6.3 overs with Knight was enough to change the dynamic of the game completely, as they snuck home with an over to spare.

Sharma ended unbeaten on 39 from 22 balls, smoking seven powerful boundaries, including one over midwicket and another over extra cover in Suzie Bates' 19th over which effectively put the game to bed.

It is hard to argue that the Storm did not merit their second title, not least after nine wins and a single dead-rubber loss in the group stage. They have won more games than any other side over the course of four KSL seasons, and in a tournament where teams are typically top-heavy in their batting, they have remarkable depth; that the big-hitting Sharma came in as low as No. 6 demonstrated their middle-order riches.

And while Priest, Fran Wilson and Mandhana have all starred throughout the season, it was fitting that Knight should be the one to see them home. She became the first player to go past 1000 runs in the tournament during her brilliant innings on Sunday, and found an extra gear that has, at times, escaped her at international level.

Anchoring the chase, Knight picked off anything short or wide, lofting over the covers and sweeping hard to find the boundary with a level of ease that had eluded her team-mates, smiting Bates for four over long-off to seal the win.

After missing out on Finals Day following a remarkable tournament haul of 421 runs with a strike-rate of 174.68 last season, Mandhana could hardly have imagined a worse outcome than this from a personal perspective.

After giving Wyatt a life at long-on when she put down a straightforward chance, she then chipped the first legitimate ball she faced to mid-on, where Marie Kelly took a brilliant catch diving forward. Mandhana's 268 runs this season are not to be sniffed at, but by her own standards represented an underwhelming return.

If Wyatt's innings was of the sort expected from one of the women's game's best T20 batters, it was also confirmation that her poor run in the Ashes this summer was little more than a blip.

It would be overly simplistic to attribute Wyatt's growth over the past four years to the KSL alone, and would undersell the impact that a central contract, the trust of the England management, and the Big Bash have had on her game. But regardless, it is hard to avoid the thought that the tournament has helped her game no end.

Wyatt made just 39 runs in five innings for Lancashire Thunder in 2016, and only 92 in her first year as a Vipers player the following season. Last year brought 172 runs in nine innings, but this year she has been relentless: nobody has ever scored more KSL runs in a single season than her 466 this campaign.

And if Wyatt rode her luck at times - she was dropped on 55 by Sophie Luff and on 65 by Mandhana - then she was also relentless in putting away anything too wide or too straight.

Vipers' top three of Wyatt, Bates and Tammy Beaumont ended the tournament having scored more than 60 percent of their team's runs off the bat, and it felt like an important moment when Sonia Odedra held onto a quite brilliant caught-and-bowled chance after Bates' attempts to work to leg only drew a leading edge. The ball looped up agonisingly, seemingly out of reach, but Odedra dived at full stretch, extending a hopeful mitt, and as she hit the turf found the ball nestled safely in her clutches.

But Beaumont and Wyatt continued to build, Beaumont playing with a characteristic deft touch as Wyatt pummelled slog-sweeps and pulls over the leg side. From 134 for 1 with six overs to go, they were well-placed to make 200, but fell away badly after Wyatt offered a catch straight to Anya Shrubsole at long-on, and Beaumont was involved in a mix-up with Maia Bouchier for the second time in the day, selling her junior partner short looking for a third run.

The Vipers' lower-middle order struggled to find the pace of a hard, but deceptively slow pitch, and the last six overs brought just 38 runs as six wickets fell. They had hoped it would not prove crucial, but as Knight and Sharma started to find gaps with growing ease, it looked increasingly like a huge opportunity missed.

Storm 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st2RH PriestS Mandhana
2nd48RH PriestHC Knight
3rd40HC KnightFC Wilson
4th13HC KnightSN Luff
5th71HC KnightDB Sharma

Women's Cricket Super League

TeamMWLPTNRR
WS1091391.109
LL1073320.792
VP1044220.425
YD105520-0.456
SS103616-0.857
LT10092-1.194