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REPORT: Central Sparks vs Lightning

Central Sparks suffered a blow to their Rachael Heyhoe Flint campaign, losing to Lightning by six runs at Blackfinch New Road, Worcester.

A record stand for the Trophy by Lightning openers Sarah Bryce and Bethan Ellis of 148 in 33 overs and a three wicket burst by Alicia Presland were responsible for their side ending a run of three defeats.

Defeat was a major blow to the second placed Sparks hopes of challenging Northern Diamonds for a place in the final and, despite half centuries from Gwenan Davies and Marie Kelly, they fell just short of their target and closed on 227-9.

Lightning were put into bat by Sparks captain Evelyn Jones on the same wicket used for last weekend’s match with Thunder.

Sarah Bryce and Ellis found the surface to their liking as they established a new partnership record for any wicket for the Trophy and it laid the foundations for Lightning’s total of 233-8 in 50 overs. Bryce continued her excellent form in the competition with her fourth successive half century and she went onto make 75 from 98 balls with nine fours. Ellis made an accomplished 62 from 101 balls with four boundaries.

The pair were both dismissed by Liz Russell on her return to the attack and she bowled an impressive second spell of 7-1-26-2. Abigail Freeborn, with a quickfire 36, capitalised on the fine start given to the Lightning innings.

The Sparks attack generally bowled tightly and spinner Anisha Patel picked up three wickets for 49 runs during her 10 overs spell. But they were let down by some indifferent ground fielding and also a crucial dropped catch – by Patel off Georgia Davis at short fine leg – when Ellis was on 17.

Sparks needed a positive start to their reply and it was supplied by Gwenan Davies and Jones who put on 41 in 8.1 overs. Leah Kellogg made the initial breakthrough when Jones (10) tried to force through the off side and was bowled but she went off injured after completing the over.

Jones was joined by Marie Kelly and the duo posed a half century standing only 7.5 overs to maintain the momentum of the Sparks innings. Gwenan Davies reached 50 off 63 balls but did not add to her tally before she was lbw to Alicia Presland.

The Sparks looked well placed at 150-2 in the 31st over but then three wickets fell for seven runs with two more of them to Presland. Kelly, whose half century came from 76 deliveries, was bowled by Teresa Graves before Presland sent back Poppy Davies (8) and Milly Home (2) in successive overs.

Presland finished with figures of 3-26 from 10 overs but some excellent deliveries were mixed in with 10 wides out of a total of 35 conceded by the Lightning.

The run rate started to climb and Chloe Hill (6) was caught right on the very edge of the mid-wicket boundary by Sarah Bryce from a Graves full toss. She seemed reluctant to depart the middle and the umpires conferred and spoke with the Lightning players before she strode off.

Emily Arlott hit a quickfire 19 before she lofted Kathryn Bryce to mid off and Georgia Davis (3) and Russell (1) were run out in the late scramble for runs to leave Clare Boycitt unbeaten on 33 from 56 balls.

The Sparks travel to Emerald Headingley on Sunday to play Northern Diamonds, who currently have a 100% winning record in the competition. A crucial game for Sparks to win to keep any hopes of reaching the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final at Edgbaston.

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