Western Storm 295 for 9 (Knight 91, Shrubsole 61*, Cross 3-35) beat Thunder 291 (Lamb 121, Cleary 79, Shrubsole 3-29) by one wicket
Anya Shrubsole scored a brilliant unbeaten 61 as Western Storm opened their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaign with a dramatic one-wicket victory over North West Thunder at Bristol.
Chasing 292 to win in 50 overs, Storm looked to be down and out when Heather Knight was dismissed for 91 in the 37th over. But England World Cup winner Shrubsole smashed six fours and three sixes in an extraordinary 41-ball innings, hitting Sophie Ecclestone for the winning boundary off the final ball of the match to complete a remarkable turnaround.
Emma Lamb had earlier posted a brilliant century as North West Thunder posted 291 for 8. The opening bat top-scored with 121 from 105 balls and shared in a third-wicket stand of 177 in 27 overs with overseas signing Piepa Cleary, who contributed 79 on debut. Shrubsole weighed in with three wickets as part of a superb all-round performance, while Georgia Hennessy claimed 3 for 57.
England captain Knight represented Storm's best hope and she shrugged off the loss of Lauren Parfitt, Sophie Luff, Hennessy and Nat Wraith to almost single-handedly keep the contest alive, posting a 60-ball 50. But the requirement was for a big hundred and, when Knight, having scored 91 from 90 balls with 12 fours and a six, attempted to pull Cleary, she top-edged a catch behind with a further 97 runs still needed from 13 overs.
Slow left-armer Hannah Jones then made a double intervention, accounting for Fi Morris and Gibson in the 39th over, after which Shrubsole picked up the cudgels with stunning effect in an unbroken last-wicket stand of 43 with Lauren Filer.
Having served notice of her form with 119 for Lancashire earlier this month, Lamb nudged the selectors, this latest innings of substance coming a month before England meet India in Bristol in the first of three ODIs.
The Preston-born 23-year-old adopted the role of senior partner in a revitalising stand with Western Australia all-rounder Cleary, these two running hard between the wickets, keeping the scoreboard moving, punishing the bad ball ruthlessly and, with the notable exception of Shrubsole, imposing themselves upon the bowlers.
Lamb was first to 50, reaching that landmark from 56 balls, while Cleary faced 20 balls more in attaining the same landmark, the century partnership coming up inside 18 overs. Moving through the gears, Cleary hoisted a short delivery from Mollie Robbins over mid-wicket to register the first six of the match and then found the square leg boundary to bring up the 150 partnership.
Cleary had faced 99 balls and harvested eight fours and a six when she played across the line to a straight one from Shrubsole, who then removed Natalie Brown. But there was no stopping the irrepressible Lamb, who raised three figures via 89 balls. A sumptuous six over mid-wicket off Danielle Gibson saw Lamb surpass her previous highest score for Thunder before she perished next ball, run out by Knight's throw from long-on. Ecclestone then provided a late flourish with six boundaries in a quick-fire 37 from 33 balls. It looked like being plenty, but Shrubsole had other ideas.
"We were so far out of the game when I came in to bat, that it was easy to be relaxed about it," Shrubsole said. "Things became a bit more tense the nearer we got to the target, but it was a matter of holding your nerve and seeing it over the line. Our top order has been so good for so long that I've hardly had a chance to make any decent runs.
"That was definitely my highest score for Storm and I'm delighted that it's won us the game. Heather [Knight] is a world class player and it was her innings that made it possible. We didn't bowl well enough as a unit today, but we always believed we could chase 292. It's important to get off to a winning start and we're buzzing in the changing room."