Southern Vipers retained their Charlotte Edwards Cup title in emphatic fashion by condemning The Blaze to their first defeat across all formats this summer in the final.
Anya Shrubsole, who announced post-match her plans to retire at the end of this season, starred with the ball, taking 2/24 as The Blaze were restricted to a first-innings total of 114/8.
Danni Wyatt backed up her blistering half-century in the semi-final with another, this time coming from 27 balls, to help the Vipers chase their total with ease, and lift the trophy for a second season running.
In a final stretched over two days because of the weather, The Blaze’s top order were shell-shocked on Saturday afternoon by a vintage Shrubsole spell, the type of which she has produced so many times over the years.
She trapped England international Tammy Beaumont, who is expected to play a key role in this summer’s Ashes series, lbw in the first over, before forcing the explosive Sarah Bryce to feather an edge to the wicketkeeper in the following over.
Georgie Boyce looked to rebuild, including successive fours to start the seventh over, but a low run rate showed their lack of control. The East Midlands outfit soon found themselves four wickets down, with Georgia Adams and Linsey Smith striking in successive overs to reduce the batting side to 51/4.
Despite the temperature pushing 30 degrees earlier in the day, the rain then began to fall, and didn’t let up, flooding the New Road pitch, and forcing the umpires to abandon play at 6pm.
The reserve day of Sunday was called upon, much to the dismay of one of the players, who had to rearrange their holiday as a result.
However, even a good night’s rest could not prevent the seemingly inevitable at points, with the Vipers’ bowling attack doing an excellent job of restricting The Blaze, a side with seven successive victories in the competition, who at certain points looked unbeatable.
It took until the 15th over for the first boundary of the day, a leg-side freebie from Adams which Nadine de Klerk could not refuse, even given the circumstances. The South African, alongside Marie Kelly, did offer some resistance, but it seemed futile.
The pair were not getting out, but they were also not scoring at the run-rate required to put on a challenging total. De Klerk worked hard for her run-a-ball 14, but a missed cut from a Charlie Dean delivery that turned sent her stumps flying, and found The Blaze six wickets down for 95 runs.
Kelly did her best to up the rate, ending with an unbeaten 26 after facing an unflattering 36 balls. Two more wickets fell as the Vipers kept chipping away, allowing The Blaze only 114 runs. It was clear they had done this before.
Set a target of 115, the combination of skill and intent from Wyatt, another expected to feature heavily in the Ashes, turned this final more into a procession. No part of the ground was left out as she cut, drove, and smashed her way to a 50.
Maia Bouchier attempted similar, and was the first to fall. However, the opening partnership of 67 from just 6.5 overs knocked off more than half the target. Wyatt eventually did fall next in the 11th over, but with only 20 runs required, her job was complete.
Lucy Higham did her best to stop the rut by forcing Ella McCaughan down the ground only to be stumped, but nothing was going to stand in the Vipers’ way now.
What Shrubsole had started, and Wyatt had continued, captain Georgia Adams finished in emphatic style, reaching the target with back-to-back fours. 34 balls were left over, and the Southern Vipers were back-to-back Charlotte Edwards Cup champions.
The performance shows that champions aren’t made. The Blaze had won all their Charlotte Edwards Cup matches up to the final, and it seemed at one point the Vipers would struggle to qualify.
None of this matters in a final, when proven international players like Anya Shrubsole and Danni Wyatt come into their own. They are champions, by name, and by nature.