Northern Superchargers 131 for 4 (Rodrigues 92*) beat Welsh Fire 130 for 8 (Matthews 30, Smith 3-14) by six wickets
A sublime innings from Jemimah Rodrigues carried Northern Superchargers to a six-wicket victory over Welsh Fire in their opening Hundred clash at Emerald Headingley.
Rodrigues, the India batter, ended unbeaten on 92 off just 43 balls, after Superchargers had slumped to 19 for 4 within the first 18 balls in their pursuit of a modest 131 for victory. She saw Lauren Winfield-Hill, Laura Wolvaardt, Hollie Armitage and Bess Heath all fall cheaply after Welsh Fire had posted 130 for 8, West Indies batter Hayley Matthews their top-scorer with 30 off 20.
Witnessed by 5,026, Rodrigues' score was the highest in the Hundred competition so far, for men or women, with the corresponding men's teams to play the second match at Headingley a short time later. After the 25-ball Powerplay, Superchargers were 24 for 4 compared with Fire's 36 for 1 but, by the halfway point they had drawn much closer with 71 runs banked compared to the visitors' 79 as opener Rodrigues stitched the innings back together. She and Alice Davidson-Richards put on an unbroken stand of 112, the latter contributing 23 from 28.
Rodrigues finds form
As wickets tumbled around her, Rodrigues produced a stellar innings that was a class above anyone else in the match. This year, her previous high score had been 30 for India against South Africa in their first T20I at Lucknow and she had missed out on selection in the Test and first ODI against England, returning for the second and third ODIs for scores of 8 and 4 before sitting out the three T20Is.
She smashed boundaries to all corners of the ground but her cover drive was particularly destructive, as demonstrated when she brought up her fifty with back-to-back fours off Nicole Harvey, beating three fielders with her first and puncturing the same area with a powerful front-foot drive for the second. She made it three in a row when she advanced to the next ball and deposited it nonchalantly over wide long-off.
Before that, she had launched Bryony Smith over long-off for six and she continued finding the rope at will to shoulder her side to what had seemed an unlikely victory with 15 balls up their sleeves, Davidson-Richards striking the winning run, a single off Smith.
Spinners keep a lid on Fire
Phoebe Graham had conceded 16 off her first set of five, all to Bryony Smith and including consecutive boundaries - a full delivery smashed over cow corner for six, a straight one driven through long-on and the next muscled out of the slot over mid-on. Legspinner Katie Levick came into the attack and struck with her second ball, the 17th of the innings, with Smith attempting another slog over the leg side and picking out South Africa international Wolvaardt, who slid in from the boundary's edge to take the catch at long-on.
Davidson-Richards bowled balls 21 to 30 with Hayley Matthews helping herself to two fours - one thanks to a misfield from Wolvaardt just inside the boundary, and a six thrashed over midwicket - on the way to top-scoring for Welsh Fire. But Levick returned to the fray and immediately bowled Alice Macleod round her legs for another breakthrough. After 10 balls, Levick had 2 for 9 and she ended with 2 for 16 from 20.
Davidson-Richards finally accounted for Matthews, pegging back middle stump as she charged down the pitch in a bid to dispatch the ball over midwicket. Linsey Smith, meanwhile, played a crucial hand in containing Fire. She ended with 3 for 14 from 20, accounting for the valuable wickets of Sarah Taylor and Sophie Luff within the space of four balls before she had Alex Griffiths caught by Laura Kimmince at long-off with the last ball of the innings.
Taylor's comeback continues apace
Matthews' dismissal brought in Taylor, making the next step in her cricketing comeback. Taylor began with the confidence of a former top international, reverse-sweeping the second ball she faced, off Davidson-Richards, for four and skipping down to place the next to short midwicket for a neat single to retain the strike. She flicked Graham over the leg side to split the fielders at deep square leg and midwicket for another boundary, but she fell to a sharp-turning delivery from Smith, which saw her stumped by Winfield-Hill for 18 off 17 balls.
But it was Taylor's wicketkeeping that was a real drawcard and the player once described as the best keeper in the world by Adam Gilchrist showed she's still got it. She was perfectly poised to take Georgia Redmayne's throw in and run out Wolvaardt for just 1. She also nearly stumped Davidson-Richards off Griffiths when the batter missed a cut and lifted her toe for a split second, only just getting it back down in time before Taylor whipped off the bails.