Southern Vipers lifted the Charlotte Edwards Cup at New Road as they beat Blaze by seven wickets to win the competition for the second year in a row.
A Danni Wyatt half-century propelled the Vipers’ chase, and fittingly it was captain Georgia Adams who hit the winning runs for her team to ensure the Vipers defended their title.
Adams was also named Player of the Tournament for her efforts across the domestic campaign, while Vipers stalwart Anya Shrubsole signed off from regional cricket on a high, lifting the trophy and earning the Player of the Match award as she announced after the game that she was retiring at the end of the season and had played her last game for the Vipers.
Shrubsole had earlier taken 2-24, a typically skilful spell of four overs that was split over yesterday’s scheduled final and today’s reserve day, with a thunderstorm bringing everyone back this morning to take the final to its close with Blaze poised on 53-4 overnight.
Blaze had been unbeaten in the group stages, topping the table with seven wins, but the Vipers’ experience and nous won out at New Road, with the East Midlands region never fully recovering from the early loss yesterday of Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Bryce.
Marie Kelly held Blaze’s innings together, with an unbeaten 26, but their 114-8 felt light against a Vipers team boasting the firepower of Danni Wyatt and Maia Bouchier up top.
Indeed the England pair put on 67 for the first wicket in Vipers’ reply and Wyatt continued her fine form from the semi-final in making another enterprising half-century.
Blaze’s bowlers pushed for a breakthrough but while they claimed three wickets the Vipers never looked in danger, and they got home with five overs to spare.
Shrubsole attributed the Vipers win, in part, to their know-how, having triumphed in the competition before: “I think our experience was a factor in the final. We were in a really strong position before it absolutely launched it down yesterday, having got them to 50-4, and it’s always tricky to come back as a batting team and start again.
“What we did really well today was be on it straight away. Those first three balls, then Deano, myself, Lins and Gads – that’s four pretty experienced bowlers to set us up today so that definitely worked in our favour.”
A victory for Blaze would have seen a new name on the Charlotte Edwards Cup, but Shrubsole was keen to praise their progress and the competition’s growth.
“Blaze have come on a lot this year, without a shadow of doubt, and I think we’ve seen improvement across all the teams – both in this competition and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
“It seems to be a much more even competition, and without a doubt the standard has gone up. It’s no surprise that all those players who’ve had a winter as a professional cricketer have been able to improve. There’s no secret with that one, and it’s been a really enjoyable competition to be a part of.”
For Blaze captain Kirstie Gordon, there was immense disappointment at not being able to replicate her team’s group stage form in today’s final, but pride at the progression they’ve demonstrated.
“There’s a lot of disappointment at the minute,” she said. “To have had such a good campaign, to finish top of the league, and not give a true showing of ourselves today was disappointing. But we hope there’s more finals to come, and we’ll have gained great experience from today and take that into the future.”
The England left-arm spinner believed Vipers deserved to win, but hoped the loss could act as a learning curve for her team: “Vipers are experienced, they are still the team to beat. Lottie and Gads have got a fantastic unit there. That bit of composure and experience they showed today has helped them. And for us a bit of naïveté, especially through that first 14 overs with the bat, we went into our shells.”
“Ultimately we’re hugely proud of where we’ve come from and this is the benchmark that we’ve set for future competitions and future seasons – we want to be in every final there is.”
For Player of the Match Shrubsole, it brings to an end a domestic career that begun in 2004.
“It’s hard to put an exact date on when I made the decision, to be honest with you. I think through the course of this tournament it just became clear to me that my time was up.
“I carried on playing because I really enjoy playing, but I guess the pain element of it – if I’m being totally honest – made it not particularly enjoyable at times, so in lots of ways it was a pretty easy decision to call it a day at the end of this year.
“I told my teammates on Friday night. I didn’t see it playing out like this, I told the girls because I wanted them to know but I didn’t think they’d make it really obvious, if I’m being honest with you! I feel very lucky to have played the last few seasons with this group, because they’re an exceptional team and an exceptional bunch of people.”