Danielle Gibson fires rapid fifty to help Western Storm quell Thunder

Western Storm 239 for 8 (Gibson 56, Jackson 3-50) beat Thunder 242 for 5 (Smale 57, Filer 3-46) by two wickets (DLS method)

Western Storm ended their season on a high with a narrow two-wicket victory over Thunder in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy at Emirates Old Trafford.

An 81-run partnership between Danielle Gibson and Nat Wraith midway through the Storm innings looked to have proved decisive in chasing a DLS target of 239 in 48 overs after a half-century by Seren Smale and Libby Heap’s explosive 36 had helped the hosts reach 242 for 5 in 50.

But Thunder hit back with late wickets to produce a tense finish before Chloe Skelton hit the winning run with 21 balls to spare.

Storm’s third win means they finish fourth in the group on 15 points while Thunder end in seventh spot with six points.

Storm made a good start to their innings with a 53-run partnership inside 10 overs between Emma Corney and Alex Griffiths, ended when Phoebe Graham bowled Corney for 23.

Fellow opener Griffiths edged behind off Sophia Turner for 33, the first of three catches for wicketkeeper Ellie Threlkeld who also snared Fran Wilson for 28 off spinner Heap and Storm captain Sophie Luff to give the excellent Turner a second wicket and leave the visitors in a spot of difficulty on 115 for 4 in the 25th over.

But Wraith and Gibson took 22 runs off a wayward 27th over from Deandra Dottin to put the run chase, delayed briefly by rain, back on course and the pair went on to produce their vital fifth-wicket stand inside nine overs.

Gibson hit eight boundaries in an eye-catching innings of 56 off 40 balls with wicketkeeper Wraith providing great support with 32 off 30 before being well caught at long-on by Daisy Mullan off Laura Jackson with 43 required.

Jackson bowled Niamh Holland and had Gibson caught at short fine-leg before Lauren Filer departed to Graham to set Storm nerves jangling. But in a tense finale Sophia Smale and Skelton edged their way to victory in the 45th over.

Having been inserted, Thunder enjoyed a good start and a great finish to their innings to post what looked to be a challenging total.

Dottin and Seren Smale combined for Thunder’s highest-ever opening partnership in three seasons of this competition to get the hosts off to the perfect start. Both batted fluently with overseas allrounder Dottin driving to good effect in making a tournament best 46 before picking out Wilson at short extra cover off Skelton with 87 runs on the board inside 20 overs.

Smale, who survived a chance off Filer on 12, went on to make a career-best 57 with some clever placement exploiting gaps in the field as Thunder arrived at the halfway stage well-placed at 98 for 1.

After Smale had reached her maiden half-century off 85 balls when driving Griffiths for her fifth boundary, it took a splendid one-handed return catch by Skelton to send back the Thunder opener during an excellent 10-over spell of 2 for 33.

Dani Collins hit four boundaries in a steady innings of 32 – her best in List A – before top edging Filer behind midway through the 38th over. Filer trapped Laura Marshall lbw and had Mullan caught at mid-on but Threlkeld and allrounder Heap then put huge momentum into the Thunder innings with an unbroken alliance of 58 from the final 29 deliveries.

Thunder skipper Threlkeld made 30 off 31 balls but Heap smashed two sixes and three fours in a stunning innings of 36 from only 18 balls to take Thunder to a total that very nearly proved to be enough.

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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