Report & Reaction: The Blaze v Southern Vipers, RHFT

Read the match report from the The Blaze v Southern Vipers at the Haslegrave Ground, Loughborough in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

Words by Jamie Ramage, ECB Reporters Network

Southern Vipers won by 126 runs to send them through to next week's Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final, pipping The Blaze, who had led the table all season in a winner-takes-all final game of the group stages at Loughborough. The South Coast team entered the last game, knowing a bonus point win would carry them through. The Blaze also knew a win would guarantee a place at Northampton next Sunday.

The Blaze would have to reach a score of 231 even if they didn't chase down the 289 they needed to win the game and take all other permutations out of the equation.

Half-centuries from Georgia Elwiss (64), Emily Windsor (53)  and Maia Bouchier (64), who recently scored 95 at Leicester for England in her first ODI series against Sri Lanka.

On an overcast morning with the September dew still fresh on the outfield, it felt important to win the toss and bowl, which is what Kirstie Gordon, The Blaze captain and early on, it looked like the correct decision Kathryn Bryce and Grace Ballinger both who get a lot of early swing kept the Vipers top order quiet. Ballinger made the early breakthrough in the second over, trapping Ella McCaughan lbw for a nine-ball duck.

The experience of Georgia Adams and Bouchier steadied the innings together; the pair added 102 for the second wicket and never rarely looked in any bother, but with runs difficult to come by early, it took Bouchier 25 balls to find her first boundary. Four more fours and two sixes from the in-form international. Both fell within 24 balls of each other, Bouchier to a fantastic low catch from Ella Claridge at a short mid-wicket that never rose above ankle height.

Runs were flowing more freely, which gave the platform for Elwiss, former captain of Loughborough Lightning and Emily Windsor, who had a short spell on loan with Lightning last season, to up the scoring rate. A fourth-wicket partnership of 94. When the pair were separated with the score on 220 with 12 overs left, a score of 300 plus was on the cards. The Blaze fought back, and Ballinger, with two wickets in the 48th over, finished with figures of four for 58; with Josie Groves, with three for 64, was the pick of The Blaze bowlers, while Kathryn Bryce's ten overs were an economical one for 36.

Where the Vipers had relied on two significant partnerships to propel them to their total, The Blaze lost wickets at regular intervals, with their running between wickets causing the fall of two wickets, albeit close calls for the umpire. However, a more obvious decision was not given as Kathryn Bryce struggled to reach her ground.

Marie Kelly, recently back from the Caribbean Premier League, top-scored for the home side with 56 from 62, and Sarah Bryce added 62 for the second wicket from 85 balls. As Kelly completed her fifty from 52 balls, she pulled up with some discomfort in her back. Kelly was determined to continue, having previously been a thorn in the Vipers' side. The Blaze needed her to bat deep, and unfortunately for the East Midlands outfit, she soon departed for 56 from Adams's handy off-spin.

The Bryce's Sarah (23) and Kathryn (36) were other leading run scorers for The Blaze, with Claridge also reaching 23 before being run out.

Mary Taylor, the 18-year-old seamer in her second spell, had Kathryn Bryce and Lucy Higham caught behind by Rhianna Southby as The Blaze crumbled to 156 for eight, 75 runs behind their nominal target.

It means the Blaze will play in the eliminator on Thursday; knowing that they needed just one more win from their final three games to qualify for the final, they will have to pick themselves up and go again.

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