Somerset got their 2022 Vitality Women’s County T20 campaign off to a perfect start against Gloucestershire at Thornbury Cricket Club on Monday, winning both matches of the double-header comfortably.
I should quickly explain the competition’s slightly confusing format – there are 35 teams, split into 7 groups of 4 and 1 group of 7. Each group will see three double-header matchdays (except for the group of 7 which sees some triple-headers featuring three teams), followed by a finals day for every group. This means that every team will qualify for a finals day bar the bottom three teams in the group of 7. Each group winner will play the bottom-placed team in one semi-final, and the second and third placed teams will play in the other semi-final. There is no national finals day so effectively there will be eight “winners”.Somerset and Gloucestershire are in group 3 alongside Warwickshire and Wales.
Somerset were lacking a couple of key players from last year’s West Midlands group-winning campaign, including Western Storm’s Georgia Hennessy, who is now at Wales, and Lightning Academy’s Ellie Mitchell, who did not appear for a county in the first round of matches.
A number of Western Storm players continue to represent the side, including veteran batter Sophie Luff (who is captain), ‘keeper Nat Wraith, leg-spinner Nicole Harvey, all-rounder Niamh Holland and right-arm seamer Lauren Filer (not to be confused with her twin and teammate, Jodie), as well as left-arm seamer Emily Edgcombe, who joins this year from Devon.
Gloucestershire, meanwhile, have strengthened with the additions of Western Storm duo Fi Morris and former England international Fran Wilson. Two other key players are Chloe Skelton and Mollie Robbins, both of whom made their Western Storm debuts last year.
In game 1, Gloucestershire won the toss and chose to bowl. Wraith fell early but Luff (25) and Harvey (35) consolidated with a partnership of 61 to take Somerset up to 67/1 at the halfway stage.
Wickets fell more frequently as Somerset looked to up the run rate, with Luff stumped, Holland run out and Harvey caught. But the wicket of Harvey brought Daisy Jeanes to the crease and the youngster proceeded to play her first Somerset innings of note, striking 30 runs off just 16 balls, with 4 fours and a six. Edgcombe also contributed 16 off 15 balls to ensure that Somerset reached a competitive, but by no means safe, 132 for 7. For Gloucestershire, Milly Squire and Morris bowled impressive spells, each conceding just 19 runs from their allotted four overs.
Somerset knew that the wickets of Morris and Wilson were key, and by the fifth over both had been removed – Morris bowled by Edgcombe and Wilson lbw to Lauren Filer. Skelton and Alice Hill consolidated for a partnership of 39, but when the latter was removed by Holland, 76 runs were needed off just nine overs.
The Somerset bowlers continued to keep things tight – no further boundaries were scored – and limited Gloucestershire to 98 for 5 and completed a 34-run win. Chloe Skelton top-scored with 38 while the wickets were shared between the Somerset bowlers, with one each for Edgcombe, Lorraine Szczepanski, Lauren Filer, Holland and Harvey. None of those five had an economy rate greater than 5.50 per over.
In game 2, Gloucestershire again won the toss but this time chose to bat. Somerset initially kept things tight, before Morris broke the shackles with consecutive boundaries off Szczepanski. The off-spinner had the last laugh, though, having her caught by Luff two balls later.
Skelton and Wilson sought to consolidate before the former was bowled by Holland for a difficult 8 off 26 balls in the ninth over. Western Storm Academy’s Katie Jones struck two fours in her 18, while Wilson fell for 16 as Somerset continued to take regular wickets. There were brief cameos for Robbins and Katie Dolman as Gloucestershire finished on 108 for 7. Szczepanski finished with the impressive figures of 3 for 21 off 4 overs.
Somerset began their chase rapidly, with 25 on the board after three overs before Wraith was stumped for 14 off 8 balls. Luff hit a six and two fours off the next over to ensure that Somerset remained well ahead of the required rate at the end of the powerplay.
Through the middle of the innings, a wicket fell every few overs but Luff remained and kept the scoreboard ticking over to ensure that Somerset were never too worried. She finished the match with a four off the first ball of the 19thover, ending 56 not out and sealing a Somerset victory by five wickets. Lilly Hawkins, on Somerset debut, was the other unbeaten batter. Squire was the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 16 off 4 overs.
Somerset’s next double-header is against Warwickshire at the Cooper Associates County Ground on Sunday – entry is free so do attend! On 2nd May (Bank Holiday Monday), Somerset are playing against Wales, this time at Taunton Vale. The group finals day will be on Sunday 8th May at Edgbaston Foundation Sports Ground in Birmingham.
The scorecard for game 1 can be found here
The scorecard for game 2 can be found here
The Play-Cricket home page for the 2022 Vitality Women’s County T20 can be found here