By Bruce Talbot
Southern Vipers’ bid to repeat their success of 2016 in the Kia Super League began with an impressive seven-wicket win over Surrey Stars at Guildford.
Tammy Beaumont, making her Vipers debut after switching from Surrey during the winter, led her side to victory with an unbeaten 62 as their target of 142 was reached witH three overs to spare.
Batting at No.3 instead of her usual position at the top of the order for England, Beaumont produced some typically aggressive shot-making as Vipers recovered from an early wobble when they were 21 for 2 to race to an impressive victory.
Beaumont said, “It was a bit strange playing against my old team but I had to put that out of my mind and I was really pleased with the way I batted. After the intensity of the international season it is slightly less pressure but you always want to do well for a new team and I thought we played really well.
“We got off to a great start with the ball and I thought at halfway their score was a bit short. We lost a couple of early wickets which can happen but I loved batting with Mignon (du Preez). She’s aggressive with her running and we put together a good partnership. It’s a good start for us and hopefully we can kick on from here.”
She added 99 in 11 overs with Mignon du Preez who contributed 48 off 31 balls, including eight fours, although she was dropped on 35. When the South African was stumped off Mady Villiers in the 15th over Vipers only needed 22 to win. Beaumont hit ten boundaries in 45 balls faced and was one of several performances to impress the watching England Head Coach Mark Robinson.
Surrey’s total of 141 for 8 always looked light with a parched lightning-fast outfield giving batsmen full value for their shots.
That they at least got a competitive score was largely down to a superb 66 off 43 balls from Sophia Dunkley. Six days after she celebrated her 20th birthday Dunkley played an innings of great maturity after coming in with her side reeling on 18 for 4 after four overs.
Dunkley and Dane van Niekerk, one of three South Africans in the Surrey team, added 63 in 9.4 overs with Dunkley the dominant partner. She wasn’t afraid to come down the pitch against the spinners and hit straight. Dunkley lofted Paige Schofield down the ground for six and her ten boundaries included one straight drive that perfectly dissected two fielders on the rope standing no more than 20 yards apart.
Dunkley showed her power through the offside too, hitting severalf her boundaries between cover and mid-off and it was a surprise when she fell in the 18th over, one of three leg-side catches expertly held by Danni Wyatt.
Van Niekerk contributed 31 but, like Dunkley, she fell to off-spinner Fi Morris. The 24-year-old’s first victim was Surrey captain Nat Sciver, who mis-timed a drive to mid-off in the fourth over. Tash Farrant picked up wickets in her first two overs and swung the new ball impressively, bowling Lizelle Lee off an inside edge and then claiming the prized scalp of Sarah Taylor (6), who was bowled through the gate on her Surrey debut. With Amelia Kerr removing Bryony Smith in the second over when she picked out extra cover Vipers had made the best possible start.
But Dunkley and van Niekerk repaired the damage impressively, although accurate bowling never allowed them to score at more than seven an over. Morris finished with 4 for 22 and Farrant bowled impressively on a pitch offering good pace and carry, finishing with 3 for 16.
Surrey needed early wickets to give themselves a chance and claimed both openers in the first four overs. Marizanne Kapp got one to nip back through Wyatt’s defences and four balls later claimed the crucial wicket of skipper Suzie Bates, courtesy of a brilliant catch at backward point by Lee. But that was as good as it got for the Stars.
Sophia Dunkley added, “Even though we were in a bit of trouble when I came in I was determined to play my normal game which is to try and be aggressive and to get on top of the bowling and I really enjoyed it out there.
“I thought we dragged it back pretty well but the pitch was good to bat on and the outfield is so fast and we were probably a few runs short.
Credit to the Vipers, they are a good side who played well but it’s a long tournament and I’m sure we can bounce back.”