Welsh Fire were defeated by Southern Brave 145 for 8 (Dunkley 50, Ismail 2-19) by 2 wickets.
By defeating Welsh Fire in a last-ball drama in front of a Cardiff women’s game attendance record of 6,500, Southern Brave climbed to the top of the Women’s Hundred standings.
As Brave pursued the Welsh Fire total of 144-5, captain Anya Shrubsole maintained her composure to receive a leg bye off the final ball from Shabnim Ismail. Brave ultimately finished 145-8.
This was Welsh Fire’s Queens of Entertainment’s first loss in the competition this year, despite being on the winning side of several nail-biting finishes, including an earlier four-run victory over the Brave.
Sarah Bryce scored an undefeated 44 for the Fire, and Sophia Dunkley got a half-century. However, 42-year-old Maia Bouchier and 41-year-old Smriti Mandhana laid the groundwork for Brave to eventually cross the threshold.
With West Indian Hayley Matthews out with a shoulder injury and Dunkley joining captain Tammy Beaumont to begin the batting, the Welsh Fire had to make do without one of their stars. After a brisk start, Beaumont was eliminated after being grabbed on the boundary by Georgia Adams, but Dunkley was in excellent form when playing against her former teammates.
This season, Welsh Fire has turned the tide.
Welsh Fire have flipped the table this season, moving from last position to first following the early games, thanks in part to England all-rounder Dunkley. With the help of Scotland’s Sarah Bryce and a solid second-wicket partnership, she completed her fifty in just 32 balls.
Dunkley went first ball after reaching that half-century and bowled when trying to cut a Chloe Tryon arm ball. New batter Laura Harris upped the scoring rate, though, getting 19 off her seven balls, including a towering straight six off Lauren Bell, before being bowled by Anya Shrubsole going for another big hit.
Bryce anchored the innings with an unbeaten 44 off 36, while Adams extended her lead as the competition’s top wicket-taker, taking 2-22 off her 20 balls. Shrubsole, with 1 for 21, and Kalea Moore, 0 for 24, were the other most economical bowlers.
Although Fire’s 144-5 was a respectable score, Brave would have believed they had the strength to pursue it. After her hat-trick heroics in the triumph against the Pheonix, Ismail took the opening pitch. She resumed her wicket-taking form by removing the dangerous Danni Wyatt with her fifth ball.
Claire Nicholas, a Swansea native, played similarly tight as the Fire allowed just three runs from the first 10 balls. When Alex Griffiths joined the attack, two Swansea bowlers were initially collaborating in Cardiff.
Smriti Mandhana, who scored the most runs for the Women’s Hundred for the Brave, got going quickly with strong backing from Maia Bouchier. They advanced to 77 at the midway point, with Dunkley squandering a chance to get Mandhana out via a runout when she was unable to reach the stumps at the bowler’s end.
The Indian left for 41 off 30 balls after lofting the ball to Ismail on the deep extra boundary off Freya Davies’ bowling, so it wasn’t too expensive. Although she was dropped on 35, when Dunkley was running
Back toward Long Off, Bouchier assumed the position of the primary aggressor. This presented Elwiss with a difficult opportunity.
Soon after, as Bouchier was out for 42 off 26 and Davies was sprinting back from mid-off, he took a slightly simpler opportunity off Elwiss’ bowling. When Freya Kemp was LBW on the opening ball, Elwiss made it two wickets from two balls, and the momentum clearly changed in favor of Welsh Fire.
Adams kept her side in the game with 40 before Tryon survived the hat trick, leaving the bottom order to cross the finish line by whatever means necessary.
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