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2nd Match, Birmingham, April 20, 2024, Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
(41/50 ov, T:214) 135

Sparks won by 78 runs


Freeborn, Baker provide key contributions as Sparks thump Blaze

Emily Arlott helps set tone with ball as visitors stumble to 135 all out

Abigail Freeborn in action for Central Sparks, Central Sparks vs Sunrisers, Charlotte Edwards Cup, Edgbaston, May 21, 2022

Abigail Freeborn's half-century set a winning platform for Central Sparks  •  Getty Images

Central Sparks 213 for 9 (Freeborn 53, Ballinger 3-47) beat The Blaze 135 (de Klerk 43, Baker 3-29) by 78 runs
Central Sparks ended their 50-over hoodoo against the Blaze with an emphatic 78-run victory on the opening day of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy season at Edgbaston. Eve Jones' side had never beaten Blaze in the 50-over format but took advantage of the visitors' long absentee list due to injury and international commitments to start the season in style.
After choosing to bat, Sparks made a total that was decent rather than imposing after numerous batters made a start but didn't build on it. Only Abi Freeborn, with 53 from 87 balls, stayed long enough against a disciplined attack led by Grace Ballinger and Sophie Munro.
Blaze's reply was then hit by a superb opening spell of 7-4-5-2 from Emily Arlott as they lurched to 14 for 3 in ten overs. Nadine de Klerk, just hours after landing in the UK from South Africa, resisted with 43 off 65 but was one of three victims for spinner Hannah Baker as Blaze's depleted team subsided.
Sparks' innings started slowly in the face of a fine new-ball burst from de Klerk who conceded just four runs in her first four overs. When Jones tried to shed the shackles, she was bowled trying to flick Ballinger to leg.
Chloe Brewer greeted the left-arm spin of Kirstie Gordon with a crisp reverse sweep for four but paid a high price for trying to repeat the shot to a ball which was too far up, falling lbw. Munro maintained the pressure for Blaze with an opening spell of 7-1-18-1 which included the removal of Davina Perrin, bowled off stump.
Former Warwickshire allrounder Marie Kelly drifted a beauty past Ami Campbell to have her stumped but Freeborn advanced to a composed 82-ball half-century before missing a swipe at Munro and perishing, stumped by Ella Claridge. Katie George provided some late impetus with a 30-ball 32 with five fours before she was yorked by de Klerk.
Sparks started superbly with the ball as Arlott and Issy Wong both conceded just two from their first two overs. Arlott opened with 5-3-4-2 after removing Teresa Graves, caught at mid-on, and Kelly, bowled behind her legs. Wong beat Munro for pace to win an lbw decision and when Claridge missed a slog at Bethan Ellis and was bowled, Blaze were 39 for 4 in the 18th over.
De Klerk and Daisy Mullan, making her debut on a five-match loan from Thunder, halted the slide and added 51 in 77 balls before the introduction of Baker ended the revival. The spinner removed both in five balls, each time defeating an attempted cut as Mullan nicked to the wicketkeeper and de Klerk was bowled middle stump.
Baker added a third wicket when Michaela Kirk ladled to deep midwicket where George, having shelled two earlier chances, this time held on.

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The Blaze Innings
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Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy