Sophia Dunkley stars as Welsh Fire beat London Spirit to claim play-off spot
Sophia Dunkley led the way with bat and ball as Welsh Fire defeated London Spirit to qualify for the Hundred finals weekend for the first time.
Dunkley top-scored with 68 as Fire made 161 for four batting first at Cardiff and she then took two key wickets for 15 as Spirit were limited to 138 for seven in reply.
Fire’s 23-run win means 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 to 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.
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.
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.
Home captain Tammy Beaumont was fresh from 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 hosts.
The first wicket came as a bit of a surprise as Spirit captain 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 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.
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 Matthews brought up the 100 in 64 balls while the former also hit the personal landmark of a half-century off 35 balls before finally being dismissed for 68 off 48.
Matthews hit a useful 36 in the closing stages while Sarah Bryce hit her first ball for six, tipped over the deep midwicket boundary by Gibson, as the only maximum of the Fire innings came with just three balls remaining.
Gibson wasted no time in clearing the boundary when she came out to lead Spirit’s reply, hitting two sixes in her opening flurry before being trapped lbw by Shabnim Ismail for 18 off seven balls.
Amelia Kerr soon followed, falling for five to a sharp catch at extra cover by Beaumont off the bowling of Claire Nicholas.
Opener Grace Harris was lbw to Ismail before Ghosh and Knight put on 68 in 52 balls to give the visitors hope.
However, Ghosh was caught by Matthews trying to reverse sweep Dunkley and the crucial wicket of Knight fell soon after, an inside edge onto the pad and then the stumps off Dunkley.
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