Welsh Fire 112 for 6 (Redmayne 30) beat Oval Invincibles 100 for 9 (Matthews 3-23) by 12 runs
Oval Invincibles fluffed their lines chasing a low target for the second time in three days against Welsh Fire, slipping to their second defeat of the Hundred to leave Southern Brave and Northern Superchargers clear at the top halfway through the competition's group stage.
The Invincibles fell four runs short chasing 110 against Northern Superchargers on Saturday at Headingley, and despite another impressive performance in the field, they were unable to string a partnership together and were beaten by 12 runs as the Fire pulled off a tigerish defence of their under-par 112 for 6.
The square boundaries were pushed a long way back at The Oval, which meant that despite light drizzle in the first innings ensuring the ball came onto the bat, both sides struggled to hit fours and Jo Gardner hit the game's only six off the 190th ball.
Hayley Matthews, Georgia Redmayne and Sarah Taylor's cameos dragged Fire up to a defendable total, and with the ball, their attack ensured Invincibles never got ahead of the required rate. Alice Capsey, Grace Gibbs and Fran Wilson briefly threatened to make a game of it, but Gibbs was the top-scorer with just 21.
Spin to win?
With Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail both missing for the second game in a row, Invincibles were again forced into a spin-heavy strategy, bowling 70 balls of spin and only 30 of seam, but given those square boundaries, it proved an effective ploy.
Capsey, Mady Villiers, Dane van Niekerk and Danielle Gregory took 3 for 61 between them across their 70 balls, generally bowling tight lines and making Fire's batters force the pace. The captain, van Niekerk, was particularly effective, conceding only 10 runs with her legbreaks and taking the crucial wicket of Matthews - the second-highest scorer in the women's competition - two balls after the strategic time-out when she under-edged into her own stumps.
But Fire's pace-off options proved just as successful in their defence. Bryony Smith, Matthews, Nicole Harvey and Hannah Baker took seven wickets between them and conceded only 67 runs from their 65 balls. Invincibles struggled to adapt to the ground's dimensions, with several batters falling to catches in the deep.
Taylor's magic touch
Taylor has struggled for runs in the early stages of the Hundred and should have been dismissed for 12 here, but was given a life as the prodigiously talented Capsey put down a straightforward chance at long-on - perhaps to prove she was mortal after all. It was a rare blemish in their fielding performance, with Tash Farrant and Gibbs prowling in the deep to good effect and Sarah Bryce effecting a sharp, direct-hit run-out in the final set.
Capsey's drop meant Taylor had the opportunity to roll back the years with two remarkable reverse-sweeps. The first was a relatively orthodox slap, hockey-style, off Capsey's offspin as she shuffled across her stumps, but the second was an outrageous piece of skill: she kept her head perfectly still while stood upright as Farrant came round the wicket, and slapped her past short third with wristy disdain.
Capsey returned to dismiss Taylor - caught in the deep by Villiers, off whose bowling she was dropped - with her penultimate ball, and Taylor's second reverse, off the 81st ball of the innings, proved to be Fire's final boundary as they struggled to ignite at the death. Taylor was typically quick with the gloves on too, running Georgia Adams out off the third ball of the chase with a nonchalant, no-look flick behind her back, and stumping Eva Gray down the leg side in the final set of five.
Katie George has had minimal involvement in Fire's season to date, facing four balls with the bat in as many games and not bowling a single delivery as she continues her comeback following a serious back injury. But she made her presence felt with two contrasting catches at deep midwicket as Invincibles' chase fell away.
The first was a stunner, diving forwards after scampering in off the rope to scoop up a chance from van Niekerk's release-shot of a pull, and George celebrated by clenching both fists and letting out a guttural roar. The second was a juggling effort after making a mess of a significantly easier chance off Villiers, which she grabbed at the third attempt before chuckling at her initial fumble.