By Gareth James
Welsh Fire hero Sophia Dunkley insisted fortune had favoured the brave after leading her team into the knockout stages of the women’s Hundred.
England star Dunkley led the way with 68 and 2 for 15 against London Spirit, as Welsh Fire qualified for the Hundred finals weekend for the first time by beating London Spirit by 23 runs.
The team which did not win a single match last year, and only two the year before, is now guaranteed at least a place in the Kia Oval eliminator, while they have one game left to try and top the rankings and go straight through the Lord’s Final.
It was also a record attendance for a Women’s Hundred game in Cardiff of 7,069, who enjoyed watching the home side reach 161, a total no team has topped in this year’s competition apart from Welsh Fire themselves.
— Women's CricInsight (@WCI_Official) August 20, 2023
Dunkley said: “We’re just playing brave cricket all the way through.
“Finals can be nervy but we’ll try and stick to our guns and play like we have all the way through the tournament. We want to keep the momentum going.
“It was a hard decision to sit out of England’s series against Sri Lanka but there is a lot of cricket around and it is the right thing to do for me at the moment.
“It was the right call to miss the first two games of this competition too.”
London Spirit came into the game knowing their own qualification hopes had gone, but a partnership of 68 between Heather Knight and Richa Ghosh, who both scored 34, gave them a flicker of hope before the final wickets tumbled under pressure. They finished 138 for 7.
Welsh Fire head to Northern Superchargers next for a straight shootout for the chance to finish top, if Southern Brave do not win their last game at Manchester Originals.
WelshFire through to the Eliminator,
could still finish top of the table
— Ioan Dyer (@Ioan_Dyer) August 20, 2023
Tammy Beaumont was coming into the game on the back of her record-shattering 118 last time out, and seemed to pick up exactly where she left off taking 20 from the first 10 balls bowled by Danielle Gibson and Sarah Glenn, after Spirit opted to bowl first.
Dunkley joined in the assault as the 25-ball powerplay yielded 53 runs for the home side.
The first wicket came as a bit of a surprise as Spirit captain Heather Knight turned to her seventh bowler after 50 balls and Sophie Munro opened with a loopy, in-swinging slower ball which clean bowled Beaumont.
Better was to follow next ball when Laura Harris went for a drive and edged behind to Richa Ghosh. She reviewed the decision, but ultra edge showed a faint touch and she had to go first ball leaving Munro on a hat-trick.
A well-deserved lap of honour for Welsh Fire in front of a record crowd! pic.twitter.com/K7Dip2SISY
— Women's Cricket Blog (@WomensCricBlog) August 20, 2023
Hayley Matthews hit that delivery through backward point for four, the West Indian back in the side after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Dunkley and Matthew brought up the 100 in 64 balls. Dunkley also hit the personal landmark of a half century off 35 balls, finally dismissed for 68 off 48.
Matthews hit a useful 36 in the closing stages. Bryce hit her first ball for six, tipped over the deep midwicket boundary by Danielle Gibson, the first six with just three balls of the innings remaining.
Gibson wasted no time in clearing the boundary, hitting two sixes in her opening flurry before being trapped LBW to Shabnim Ismail for 18 off seven balls. Amelia Kerr soon followed, a sharp catch at extra cover by Beaumont off the bowling of Claire Nicholas.
Grace Harris was LBW to Ismail before Ghosh and Knight put on 68 in 52 balls. Ghosh was caught by Matthews trying to reverse sweep Dunkley. The crucial wicket of Knight fell soon after, an inside edge onto the pad and then the stumps off Dunkley.
Fire through to the playoffs with an emphatic win 🔥
🔵 Heather Knight 34 (28)
🔵 Richa Ghosh 34 (26)
🔴 Sophia Dunkley 2/15 (15)
— Women’s CricZone (@WomensCricZone) August 20, 2023