ASTWOOD BANK CC ace Clare Boycott played a starring role as Central Sparks emerged victorious against North West Thunder by eight wickets in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy on Saturday.
Sparks chased down 167 in 39 overs at New Road thanks to four wickets from Boycott and Eve Jones top-scoring with 90 to see the hosts over the line.
The emphatic victory put Sparks second in the North Group, with Thunder sitting in third place ahead of Sparks’ home game against Lightning at Worcester on Friday, September 11 (10.30am).
After losing the toss and bowling, Sparks’ bowlers produced a fine all-round performance – picking up wickets at regular intervals and not letting the visitors’ run rare get ahead of them.
When the batters’ turn came, they ensured Thunder did not get back into the game and their positive play in the middle secured the win.
Thunder made a steady start to their first innings – putting on an unbroken opening partnership of 53 from the first 17 overs.
However, Sparks turned their fortunes around and took three wickets in nine balls. Firstly Anisha Patel trapped Laura Marshall lbw for 25 and Boycott followed by taking two wickets in two overs. She bowled Jackson for 1 and next over got Boyce edging behind for 27.
After the three quick wickets, Thunder settled and boundaries began to flow as they upped their intent heading to back stages of the innings, although once again Sparks managed to take wickets at regular intervals to halt the visitors.
An amazing direct hit from skipper Jones dismissed Ellie Threkeld for 22 after a mix-up in the middle between herself and Brown when pushing for a single that was not there.
Another three quick wickets followed for Sparks, for just three runs. Thea Brookes came into the attack, making an impact by dismissing Brown for 27 caught behind and trapping Olivia Thomas LBW for 0. Boycott got the third, bowling Heap who went without scoring.
Duckworth and Dyson did put Thunder back into the game in the last ten overs, bringing their score past 150. Their partnership of 35 was broken by Boycott, getting her fourth wicket, when Dyson was caught for 21, with Thunder posting 166.
Sparks made a positive start to their chase as openers Gwen Davies and Jones brought up their 50 partnership in the 12th over and they continued to frustrate in their dominant opening partnership.
Captain Jones passed her half-century in the 24th over, coming from 82 balls, as the 100 partnership from the openers came in the same over.
The partnership flourished as the innings progressed, reaching 114, but Olivia Thomas found a breakthrough, trapping Davies LBW for 37.
Marie Kelly came in and continued her great form alongside Jones but, just on the brink of victory, Jones was run out for 90. Nevertheless, the hosts completed a comprehensive win in an excellent all-round performance.
Sparks skipper Jones said: “I think we played really well as a team. The bowlers all chipped in and the batters came out and did their job.
“It was nice personally to score some runs and I was really happy with our performance. It’s all coming together nicely.”