Southern Vipers have won their third regional trophy in three seasons after comprehensively beating Central Sparks by six wickets in the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup at Northampton, chasing down their 110-run target with 25 balls to spare.
The off-spinner Charlie Dean took two for 19, while Maia Bouchier underlined her case for an England recall, top-scoring with 32 off 25 balls and taking two brilliant catches.
Vipers, who have already claimed two 50-over titles since the new women’s set-up was established in 2020, now have the 20-over trophy to add to their collection – poetic justice, perhaps, given that the competition is named after their head coach.
Tight work in the field proved the theme of the day for Vipers: Bouchier’s athleticism, which helped reduce Sparks to 45 for three in the opening eight overs, included a leaping effort at long-on to see off the competition’s leading run-scorer, Amy Jones, who had raced to 27 off 23 balls and looked on course for a big score.
The wicketkeeper Carla Rudd then turned the screw in the middle overs with a smart stumping and a run-out, before Georgia Adams took a diving caught-and-bowled in the 18th. Four balls later Adams went one better, running to her right, vaulting over the ball and back-handing it on to the stumps at the non-striker’s end to run out Emily Arlott.
Arlott proved the pick of the Sparks attack, having Danni Wyatt (20 off 10) caught at mid-on before castling Bouchier in the 10th over, but the pair had laid solid foundations and the cool head of 19-year-old Ella McCaughan (an unbeaten 30 from 30) did the rest.
Central Sparks had gone into the match with frayed nerves, after almost throwing away their semi-final against South East Stars, chasing down their target of 105 in the final over with two wickets to spare.
The defending champions suffered a nightmare with the bat, reduced to 25 for five inside the six-over powerplay. The speedster Issy Wong (two for eight) fired in a series of ferocious short balls, seeing off both openers for ducks, but it was 19-year-old right-arm seamer Grace Potts (three for 20) who produced the ball of the day, jagging it away off the seam to hit the top of Alice Capsey’s off stump.
In reply, Sparks raced to 53 for one in their own powerplay, but the Stars captain, Bryony Smith, led the fightback with four for 14, clattering through the middle order with a succession of good-length deliveries pitched on the stumps. Only superb game management from No 9 Arlott (16 not out off 21), who was content to nurdle singles, dragged them over the line.
It was not the best preparation for a final against a team who had gone unbeaten in group stages of the competition, qualifying automatically for the final as a result.
“We want to win trophies, we’re very ambitious as a squad,” Adams said. “We set our standards high and to go out and play the way we’ve played is just incredible.”